Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund keep chemistry going in Wild win
Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund have been constants for the Wild lately, as Friday proved.
By BRIAN HALLFS North
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The lines were changing around Minnesota forwards
Mikael Granlund and
Jason Pominville. Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu were split up for the first time since Parise signed with Minnesota in 2012. Charlie Coyle was returning after missing 11 games with a knee strain.
Granlund and Pominville started the game with Matt Cooke on the left wing. Later it was Nino Niederreiter for a third-period goal. Granlund and Pominville have been the one constant while coach Mike Yeo juggled the lines.
For good reason.
Pominville scored two goals and added an assist and Granlund finished with two assists in the Wild’s 4-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night. Niederreiter scored his third goal of the season on a feed from Granlund, Justin Fontaine scored his fourth goal and Josh Harding made 28 saves for Minnesota, which won for the fourth time in five games.
"They've been able to be together for a little bit here," Yeo said of Granlund and Pominville. "It doesn't work if Granny's not on top of his game like he is right now. He's playing at a high level and he's playing at a high level on both ends of the rink. A lot of the chances and even some of the goals that they score, if you were to go back and watch them, they start with good D-zone coverage."
Granlund has assists in four straight games, a career-high, and now leads the Wild with 10 assists in 13 games this season. His seven assists since Oct. 19 are the second-most in the NHL in that span, trailing only Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle. With two assists Friday, his 10 points has already surpassed the eight points (two goals, six assists) he had in 27 games as a rookie last year.
"Yeah, I feel much more comfortable than last season," Granlund said. "It was a tough one last season, but I'm getting better all the time and there's now a little confidence in the game, so it helps a lot and it's a big part of my game. I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing and even try to get better all the time."
Pominville has been on the receiving end of many of Granlund's passes. He leads Minnesota with nine goals this season and is tied for third in the NHL. He's riding a three-game goal scoring streak and his eight goals since Oct. 14 are tied for first in the league over that stretch.
"He didn't get overly frustrated at the beginning of the year when thing weren't going in for him," Yeo said. "He's getting chances, he's doing the right thing, he's playing the right way. Puck's not going in, some guys go the other direction."
Pominville, who started the season on the team’s top line with Parise and Koivu, kept working. Being with Parise and Koivu worked well at times, but to find more balanced scoring, Yeo switched the lines up earlier this season. The pairing of Pominville with Granlund has paid off.
"Obviously (Granlund) sees the ice really well and I think we're both guys that like to make plays," Pominville said. "I'm a guy that likes to shoot. I think we're not the biggest guys but we try and stay in movement and we seem like we find each other in a lot of situations. So, I think just his overall game fits my overall game pretty well.
"We talk about it his offense and his playmaking ability, but I think the way he plays away from the puck too is benefited this team in a big way. He came in and wasn’t sure if he was going to play center or wing, but I think he’s really proven that he's an elite centermen. It's enjoyable to play with him."
Granlund, Pominville and Parise are tied for the team lead with 10 points.
Pominville believes playing forward on the power play and being closer to the net helped his scoring touch and he’s been able to continue the momentum. And finding chemistry with the pass-first Granlund has helped.
"Pucks are finding me and I'm finding ways to put them in," Pominville said. "But I think it’s just kind of finally getting rewarded for all the work we put in. I think as a line we went through a little bit of a tough stretch and weren’t able to generate much in the goal column and now we’re starting to chip in, in that way. It's obviously nice to go out there and make plays and help the team offensively, because I think we know we're capable of doing that."