P.K. Subban was the catalyst for the Montreal Canadiens' biggest offensive outburst in three years on Sunday.
The rookie defenseman scored three goals for his first NHL hat trick, and the Canadiens cruised to an 8-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
"I never thought in a million years that I would get a hat trick in an NHL game," Subban said. "It's quite the thrill, it's something you dream about. To be able to do it this early in my career, it's a great feeling.
"Everything was going our way. The bounces went my way. The team did a great job creating the chances for me."
With hundreds of loud Canadiens fans in attendance, Ryan White gave visiting Montreal the lead just 31 seconds in. That set the tone for the rout. Montreal led 2-0 after the first period and 6-0 after 40 minutes.
Andrei Kostitsyn, James Wisniewski, Travis Moen and Tom Pyatt also scored for the Canadiens, who netted eight goals for the first time since January 2008. Montreal's Benoit Pouliot assisted on each of the first three goals against his former team.
"All four lines gave us some good push," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "I thought the line of Pouliot and White at times with Kostitsyn was really strong. It was the difference maker."
Mikko Koivu scored a penalty-shot goal for the Wild with 7:46 remaining to end Alex Auld's shutout bid.
Subban's performance was the most impressive. He gave Montreal a 3-0 lead 51 seconds into the second period when he drove from the left side and scored on Jose Theodore. Subban made it 6-0 with 3:37 left in the period by sending a shot from the point during a power play.
Subban completed the hat trick 1:27 into the third period when his shot from the right circle beat Niklas Backstrom -- who replaced Theodore in the second -- low to the glove side.
The hat trick was the first for a Montreal defenseman since Sheldon Souray did it against Nashville in December 2003. Subban is also the first defenseman to record a hat trick against the Wild.
His hat trick was the first by a Montreal rookie since Oleg Petrov scored three goals in December 1993.
"It's obviously a great achievement," Subban said. "It was great to get that, but it didn't feel like I was trying to score. Things just happened for me."
It was the most lopsided loss in Wild history and this one was especially costly to the team's playoff chances. The Wild, 11th in the tightly bunched Western Conference postseason race, had never given up more than seven goals at home and never lost a game by more than six.
Minnesota hasn't won since March 8 and has been outscored 28-9 during its current six-game losing streak. Theodore made 14 saves before being yanked. Backstrom played the rest of the way and stopped 10 shots.
"Our execution was probably the worst I've seen in just about two years now here," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "Decisions with the puck, without the puck, our defensemen were chasing back a lot. I felt bad for Theo because we put him in some really tough predicaments on the ice.
"I need to be better as a coach, and the players need to be better as players."
Auld was solid in earning his sixth win of the season. The quick start and Auld's performance allowed Montreal to bounce back from Friday night's 6-3 loss at the New York Rangers. The Canadiens, sixth in the Eastern Conference, have won eight of 11.
The Wild avoided the shutout after Montreal's Alexandre Picard was called for covering the puck in the crease with his hand. That set up Koivu's penalty-shot goal.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.