Eller gets tiebreaker as Canadiens beat Wild, 4-1
MONTREAL (AP) Jiri Sekac is making a strong case to stay in the Montreal Canadiens' lineup.
Playing his second straight game after sitting out the previous seven as a healthy scratch, Sekac had a goal and an assist Saturday night to help Montreal beat the Minnesota Wild 4-1. It was the 22-year-old rookie's first career multipoint game.
''I don't think it can get any better right now,'' said Sekac, who is competing with Rene Bourque, Travis Moen and Michael Bournival for playing time. ''It's just an amazing feeling in front of all these fans. I just can't describe it right now.''
Lars Eller scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period. Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty also scored for Montreal, and Carey Price stopped 30 shots.
Early in the third, Sekac was rewarded for an already solid game when he poked the puck across the goal-line past a helpless Darcy Kuemper for his second goal of the season.
''I'm trying to get used to every game,'' said Sekac, who is looking for more playing time. ''Hopefully it's just going to go up now, not the other way.''
The goal wasn't without controversy as the poke-in was made easy when Kuemper was knocked to the ice after Minnesota's Nino Niederreiter pushed Prust onto the Wild goalie.
The referees and linesmen conferred, and the goal stood because it was a Wild player who hit Prust first.
''I knew I was pushed in pretty hard,'' Prust said. ''I was pushed right into the crossbar. I was sitting there, listening to the ref's conversation, and I heard him say that it was a good goal. I knew before everybody else.''
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo was surprised the goal wasn't disallowed.
''I didn't really get a chance to react to it,'' he said. ''They (the referees) didn't really want to come and talk to me, and then the puck was dropped at center ice. I'm obviously not very pleased. I thought we were going on the power play there.''
Sekac was dangerous on several occasions against the Wild.
Midway through the second period, the left-winger came close to padding Montreal's 1-0 lead when he swiped at a loose, bouncing puck in the crease, but failed to connect. Later in the period, Kuemper gloved Sekac's powerful wrist shot, and the Wild goalie again frustrated the Czech native from the slot in the third.
''He's skating well, making the right decisions with the puck,'' coach Michel Therrien said. ''Sometimes, taking a step back is not a bad thing. At the start of the season, I saw a player with less energy. Now, he's got his energy back, he's quick, and he's having success right now.''
Jason Pominville scored for Minnesota and Kuemper had 27 saves.
With the score tied 1-1, Eller gave Montreal the lead for good with 50 seconds left in the second period, beating Kuemper glove side with a screened snap shot from the faceoff circle. The goal came just inches from the spot where Gallagher had scored earlier in the period.
The Canadiens beat Minnesota for the fifth time in six meetings in Montreal.
Before the game, the Canadiens retired defenseman Guy Lapointe's No. 5. Lapointe played 14 seasons with Montreal between 1968 and 1982 before brief stints with St. Louis and Boston. He had 622 points in 894 career games, and ranks second in goals by a Canadiens defenseman with 166.
''I am very honored to be here tonight, 32 years after my last game with the Montreal Canadiens,'' Lapointe told fans before the ceremonial banner raising. ''I never thought that one day, my No. 5 would hang up there.''
The Canadiens got on the scoreboard first midway through the second period. Coming down the wing with speed, Gallagher ripped a slap shot to the roof of the net at 9:26, beating Kuemper for his first point in his last nine games.
Pominville tied it with 5:01 left in the period, just minutes after Sekac came close to doubling Montreal's lead. Following a bad giveaway by Andrei Markov at the blue line, former Canadiens star Thomas Vanek skated into the offensive zone on an odd-man rush, and found Pominville alone at the side of the net for the easy tap-in.
Seconds after David Desharnais hit the crossbar on a 2-on-1 rush, Pacioretty put the game out of the Wild's reach with his team-leading sixth of the season at 6:04.
NOTES: Montreal improved to 4-0 when scoring first. ... Canadiens LW Rene Bourque was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game. With LW Michael Bournival out injured (shoulder), Sekac dressed after missing the last seven games. ... Minnesota points leader Zach Parise (upper-body injury) did not travel to Montreal.