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Pominville, Wild top line asserts itself in Game 3

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When judging the season of Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville, be sure to look further than his statistics.

Despite a 12-goal decline from last season, Pominville has been an important piece all season for the Wild, who are leading a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time in their history.

Pominville scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 of Minnesota's Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues on Monday, giving the Wild a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 4 on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NCBSN, SN360, TVA3, FW-MW, FS-N).

"From a goal-scoring standpoint, you always want more," Pominville said. "From a point-production, I'm pretty much where I was last year (60-54). I went through a stretch [this season] where maybe I was making more plays and not shooting as much, but when you look at my total shots, I had more this year."

The 252 shots on goal Pominville had during the regular season tied a career-high, 26 more than he had last season, when he led the Wild with 30 goals.

This season, Pominville scored 18 goals and had six more assists than he did last season.

"My shooting percentage was a little bit lower than it usually is," Pominville said.

It was four points lower than his career average (11.2 percent), six points lower than last season (13.3), and the lowest of his 10-year NHL career.

Had he converted his 252 shots at his career rate, Pominville would have scored 28 goals. At last season's rate, he would have approached his career-high of 34 goals.

"Three or 4 percent doesn't sound like much, but at the end of the day it makes a big difference in the amount of goals you score," Pominville said. "At the same time here, I have to be realistic. A lot of my shots are from further out. I play defense on the power play, so I can't get those rebounds or goals from the prime scoring areas. I think 5-on-5, I've had some tough bounces. I'd like to get into those scoring areas more consistently."

In Game 3, Pominville scored from a prime area, capping a rush opportunity by taking a pass from forward Zach Parise at the top of the crease for an easy tap-in with an open net.

A couple of minutes later, Pominville demonstrated his playmaking ability by returning the favor, feeding a pass to Parise in the slot where Parise simply outworked Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester to snap a shot over Jake Allen's glove.

The center on their line, Mikael Granlund, had the secondary assist on each goal as Pominville and Minnesota's top line asserted itself for the first time in the series.

"I was pleased with the game they played in St. Louis in Game 2 and I've been pleased with them throughout the series," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "[Monday], they got what they deserved."

Scoring goals and providing offense is not the only way the line helped Minnesota to one of its most impressive wins of its season, 3-0 on Monday. They were also charged with helping slow down the Blues line of Alexander Steen, Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko, who had a hat trick in a Game 2 win.

In Game 3, the line had no shots through two periods before Blues coach Ken Hitchcock completely revamped his top-nine forward group to try to get something going offensively.

"I wasn't too excited about the way our first two games went in St. Louis," Parise said. "I thought we could do a lot better. We had more puck time, more zone time, better rushes -- just better plays. And I know the three of us wanted to have a better performance than we had in St. Louis."

Defending that group as well as they did offered them chances to score against it in the offensive end. The Steen-Lehtera-Tarasenko line was a minus-2 through two periods.

"I think for our line to be successful, we've got to be moving," Pominville said. "We're not the three biggest guys physically, but we can move well, and we can make plays when we need to, and our forecheck game has been pretty good.

"It makes it tough to defend when you're always moving and making plays when you have the puck. So it was nice to get rewarded the way we did for sure."

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