Fast start lifts Wild past Canadiens 6-3
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Cullen scored his first goal of the season on his 41st birthday and added an assist during Minnesota’s three-goal first period, giving the sputtering Wild a welcome spark on the way to a 6-3 victory Thursday night over the Montreal Canadiens.
Matt Dumba and Tyler Ennis also scored to send struggling Canadiens goalie Carey Price into the first intermission with a 3-0 deficit. Ryan Suter chipped in a second-period goal , and Jared Spurgeon scored on a power play for more insurance in the first minute of the third.
Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund each had two assists and Marcus Foligno added an empty-net goal for the Wild, who have won six straight games against the Canadiens while outscoring them 25-9.
Price, who stopped 21 shots by the Wild, gave up a staggering seven goals in the team’s last trip to Minnesota on Jan. 12 .
Brendan Gallagher scored twice and Andrew Shaw had one of two third-period goals for the Canadiens, who totaled 13 goals over their previous two games but still entered the night with the fourth-fewest goals per game (2.5) in the NHL.
Defense has been a problem for the Canadiens, too, with the third-most goals allowed per game (3.75) in the league coming into this game. That’s despite the presence of Price, the five-time All-Star who was the Hart Trophy winner just three seasons ago as the MVP of the NHL.
Price has allowed four goals or more in four of his last five starts.
Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves for the Wild, winning his third straight start.
Cullen, the second-oldest player in the league behind Jaromir Jagr of the Calgary Flames, snagged a long rebound off Price’s pads and sent it into the net as Price was falling to his right. That put the Wild on the board just 4:46 into the game.
Dumba, who also had an assist, scored 10 seconds after Cullen on a slap shot after a clearing attempt by Price went astray. Price jammed the butt of his stick into his glove several times in frustration after falling behind 2-0. Cullen then led a slick 2-on-1 to beat defenseman Jeff Petry and tee up Ennis for the tap-in.
Dumba responded deftly to a rough game on Tuesday, when his careless drop pass was intercepted by Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers for an easy goal in a 2-1 victory by the Jets. Dumba was benched by coach Bruce Boudreau after the turnover and called out by the boss afterward.
NOTES: Cullen has four goals and four assists in nine career games on his birthday. He played in his 1,500th game, including playoffs, which ranks 46th all-time and sixth among active players. … Spurgeon snapped an 0-for-19 skid on the power play for the Wild. … Gallagher has three goals in the last two games.
Canadiens: Make the third stop on a four-game road trip to play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
Wild: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday to wrap up a six-game homestand.