The Minnesota Wild have struck a fresh balance this season.
Goals are coming from everywhere in the lineup, an every-man vibe that begins in the locker room and carries onto the ice.
Connor Dewar got his first career goal and added an assist when Nico Sturm scored 22 seconds later, helping the Wild match their franchise record for goals in an 8-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night.
“Everybody can play. Everybody works hard. It’s a pretty special team here,” Benn said.
Zuccarello squeezed a bad-angle shot past goalie Cayden Primeau with 31 seconds left in the second period for a 5-1 lead for the Wild, who are 10-0-1 with a 56-25 scoring margin in their last 11 games at Xcel Energy Center. Their only home regulation loss since Nov. 16 was to St. Louis in the Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1.
WATCH | Wild match single-game franchise goal record in rout of Habs:
“It must be an absolute wonderful environment to come into, because of the people that are in there. We’ve talked about it so many times with how accepting they are,” Minnesota coach Dean Evason said.
Mike Hoffman gave the Canadiens the lead by slamming a pass to the slot past Talbot’s glove just 1:23 into the game, but Spurgeon tied it less than two minutes later with an uncontested slap shot for the captain’s first goal since Nov. 11. He missed a total of 15 games with two different injuries.
Talbot made 14 saves in two periods for his first win since Dec. 9. The all-star missed the last six games with a lower-body injury sustained in the subzero temperature during the Winter Classic, and over the three weeks prior to that the Wild also had four games postponed by opponent COVID-19 outbreaks.
Pitlick has two goals in six games with the Canadiens, who claimed him off waivers from the Wild two weeks ago when he was struggling to accept a bottom-six forward spot.
The fourth line Pitlick left behind made quite a mark on this game, more evidence of the enviable depth the Wild have assembled under general manager Bill Guerin.
Dewar scored on a shot from the slot that scraped the crossbar. Then he used his stick to route Spurgeon’s pass toward Sturm for the tap-in and a 4-1 lead at 4:23 of the second period.
CONNOR DEWAR FIRST GOAL ALERT 🚨 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/mnwild?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#mnwild</a> <a href=”https://t.co/I1xLsw0bY3″>pic.twitter.com/I1xLsw0bY3</a>
“For us as a line, most nights there’s not a lot of glory in the kind of game that we play. It feels good for all of us,” said Sturm, who was beaming about his buddy Dewar’s first goal.
Dewar, Sturm and Brandon Duhaime all developed together for Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.
“We used to joke about, `When we’re in the league,’ and I thought it was very fitting that it was those two who were the first guys to hug me when I scored tonight,” said Dewar, a third-round draft pick by the Wild in 2018.
The Canadiens dropped to 8-26-7. They’re 1-5-4 in their last 10 games. Primeau, making his 12th career start, was pulled after two periods for Michael McNiven, who allowed three goals on seven shots in his NHL debut.
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With goalie Carey Price in treatment for substance abuse and Jake Allen sidelined by a long-term injury, the Canadiens also recently lost Sam Montembault to an injury.
“We were losing those 1-on-1 battles too often, and just made it too easy on them,” coach Dominique Ducharme said.