NHL

Staal helps Wild win ninth straight game, beat Canadiens 4-2

  • Minnesota Wild's Eric Staal celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during third-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Minnesota Wild's Eric Staal celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during third-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Minnesota Wild's Charlie Coyle (3) collides with Montreal Canadiens' Joel Hanley (71) as he moves in against Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price during third-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Minnesota Wild's Charlie Coyle (3) collides with Montreal Canadiens' Joel Hanley (71) as he moves in against Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price during third-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Minnesota Wild's Jared Spurgeon (46) celebrates with teammates Jason Zucker (16) and Mikael Granlund after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during second-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

    Minnesota Wild's Jared Spurgeon (46) celebrates with teammates Jason Zucker (16) and Mikael Granlund after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during second-period NHL hockey game action in Montreal, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Playing at Bell Centre against goaltending ace Carey Price was a stiff test for Minnesota but these days the Wild just keep on winning.

Eric Staal scored the go-ahead goal shorthanded early in the third period to give Minnesota a 4-2 victory over the Canadiens on Thursday night, tying the Wild's team record of nine consecutive wins.

They have a chance to make it 10 straight when they face the Rangers in New York on Friday night — their last game before the holiday break.

"I've been part of some good runs before but never 10 in a row, so this is fun," said Staal. "You want to keep this riding as long as you can.

"It's fun winning. We're going into the break feeling really good. It'll be a good effort to put everything on the line (Friday) and then exhale for a couple of days."

Minnesota last won nine in a row March 8-24, 2007.

Jordan Schroeder and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Wild (20-8-4), who erased a pair of one-goal Montreal leads. Jason Zucker added an empty-net goal with 23 seconds left in the game.

Max Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen scored for Montreal (21-8-4), which ended a two-game winning run. The Canadiens are now 15-3-2 at home.

The game featured a duel between two of the NHL's leading goalies, with Devan Dubnyk having the edge over Price as the Canadiens outshot the Wild 34-27. Dubnyk was part of the Canadiens organization briefly in 2014 before he moved on and established himself as a top goaltender with Arizona and Minnesota.

"There was a lot of build up, so it's impossible not to think about it a little bit, but he's still the best goalie in the world," Dubnyk said of Price. "It doesn't make a difference.

"It's always a challenge coming into this building. It's a fun place to play."

Price felt the same.

"He's a good goalie," Price said of Dubnyk. "His journey has been a rough one at times but you've got to respect his resilience and the way he's carried himself through the process.

"You have to tip your hat to the guy. It wasn't about me versus him, but you always want to outplay your opponent and tonight they had one better."

After a scoreless first period, the Canadiens struck short-handed. After Brian Flynn and Tomas Plekanec were stopped on back-to-back chances, Phillip Danault sent Pacioretty in alone to beat Dubnyk with a low shot from the right side 2:01 into the second.

Price was at the heart of Minnesota's tying goal at 7:07 as his clearing attempt was picked off by Schroeder and the recent call-up from AHL Iowa circled the net and shot high. Price got most of it, but inadvertently nudged it into the net with a skate.

Lehkonen was alone in front to put in Flynn's rebound at 10:35, but Spurgeon, playing his 400th NHL game, finished a three-pass attack in the Montreal zone with a shot from the right side at 15:13.

It was the Wild's turn to score shorthanded 3:08 into the third when Mikael Granlund chopped the puck past Mark Barberio to send Staal down the left side for a shot that beat Price on the short side.

The Canadiens play Friday night in Columbus, where they lost 10-0 on Nov. 4, to begin a stretch of seven straight away games. Their next home game is Jan. 9 against Washington.

Coach Michel Therrien said that back-up Al Montoya will start in goal, as he did the last time against the red-hot Blue Jackets.

"It's another game," said Therrien. "We understand they have a very good team and it will be a challenge for everyone."

He was upset with the power play, which went 0-for-4.

"Execution on our power play is not there, and confidence too," he said.

NOTES: Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin missed the game as his wife gave birth to their third child. Joel Hanley was called up from St. John's to fill in and forward Sven Andrighetto was returned to the AHL club. ... Zach Parise sat out sick for Minnesota, so Kurtis Gabriel dressed.

UP NEXT:

Wild: visit the Rangers on Friday night.

Canadiens: visit Columbus on Friday night where the lost 10-0 on Nov. 4 to begin a stretch of seven straight road games.