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Published September 12, 2015
With their top defenseman out and a power play that is misfiring, a couple of fortuitous bounces were enough for the Minnesota Wild.
Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville scored improbable goals to lift the Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 18 shots after allowing four goals in each of his last two starts. Minnesota has won seven of 10.
"We won the game," Minnesota forward Zach Parise said. "We beat arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, and that's the most important thing."
Alex Galchenyuk scored in the final minute after Montreal pulled goalie Carey Price, who made 33 saves. The Canadiens are 1-3-1 in their past five games.
"The only good hockey we played was in the third period there, and there's no excuse with everything that's happened in the past day to not show up and give our best right from the puck drop," left wing Max Pacioretty said.
Playing with heavy hearts one day after the death of Hall of Famer Jean Beliveau, the Canadiens dedicated the game to the longtime captain who won 10 Stanley Cup titles as a player and seven more as an executive. All Montreal players wore No. 4 on their helmets.
Other than getting the first six shots of the third period, the Canadiens provided little offense against a team missing its top defenseman, Ryan Suter.
Suter sat out due to illness, marking the first time the NHL leader in ice time has missed a game since joining the Wild on July 4, 2012. He had played in 153 consecutive regular-season games and 18 more in the postseason.
Wild coach Mike Yeo said Suter had "a couple symptoms" that indicate the mumps. The team is awaiting results of blood work done Tuesday.
The mumps has caused, or is believed to have caused, four defensemen — Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Keith Ballard and Christian Folin — to miss time earlier this season. Their absences ranged from two to eight games.
"One thing we said this morning is that this was not going to be a picture-perfect game," Yeo said. "For one, we're playing a very good team and, for two, the absence of (Suter), we knew that was going to be felt."
Zucker gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead 19 seconds into the game when his shot from below the left circle hit Price in the right shoulder and popped up before bouncing in off Price's backside. It was Zucker's fourth goal in five games.
"That's not exactly the one you want to give up in the first minute of the game," Price said.
A second fluky goal made it 2-0 midway through the second period.
Pominville was stationed behind P.K. Subban and in front of Price when a high wrist shot from Folin neared. As Pominville ducked, the puck deflected off his stick and into the net.
Video replays were inconclusive if Pominville's stick was at or below the crossbar height when he deflected the puck.
Pominville has two goals in 17 games. The other was scored on Nov. 8 at Montreal.
"I've had some great looks and haven't been able to score," he said. "Then you get one of those and you're kind of shaking your head wondering why you get that, and you're not getting the other ones. I'll keep digging."
Minnesota had a 58-second 5-on-3 power play less than two minutes later, but garnered zero shots to the dismay of the crowd. The negativity got louder in the third when Minnesota had a 5-minute power play and again had zero shots.
Minnesota's 9 percent success rate on the power play is 29th in the NHL.
"There's too many positives for our team to focus on right now," Yeo said. "I'm not going to deny it, it's the one thing that's keeping us from being an elite team, but that said, we've got the group to do it. We'll figure it out."
NOTES: A pregame moment of silence was held in Beliveau's memory. .. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in town for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday, attended the game. ... Montreal has been outscored 23-8 in the first period this season. ... The Wild has outshot opponents in 21 of 24 games, totaling a 796-612 advantage. ... Minnesota assigned D Justin Falk to AHL Iowa. ... Montreal's four-game trip concludes with games in Chicago on Friday and Dallas on Saturday. The Canadiens won 4-3 in Colorado on Monday.