BUFFALO – In Jason Pominville's return to First Niagara Center as a member of the Minnesota Wild, it's only fitting he would play a key role in helping beat his former team.
The former Buffalo Sabres captain scored his second goal of the season, a power-play goal, at 19:50 of the second period to give the Wild a 2-1 win Monday night.
Pominville came through on the right wing side and fired a shot off goalie Jhonas Enroth's shoulder and into the net. It was Pominville's first goal against Buffalo; he now has scored against all 30 NHL teams.
As you might expect, he enjoyed the moment for himself and his team.
"Good way to finish it for sure," Pominville said. "Just so many good memories in this building and in this city and everything so it was nice to be able to get one and win it on top of that, so it was good."
Kyle Brodziak scored his first goal of the season 5:23 into the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. Brodziak's wrist shot beat Enroth through the five-hole while he was screened by his defenseman Mike Weber.
"I knew there was a lot of traffic there and I was trying to put the puck on the net somehow," Brodziak said. "It was fortunate. We had guys going there and maybe he got screened and I just found a hole. It's a lucky goal, but we'll take it."
On Pominville's goal, the Wild strung together seven passes in a row to set up Pominville. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo appreciated the work from his team on both goals.
"They were nice goals off the rush," Yeo said. "I mean, one was a power-play goal, but tic-tac-toe … that was some precise passing and a great finish."
Buffalo has yet to score first in any of its seven games this season and the Sabres have led only once, for 2:26 against in the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brodziak said he knew how important it was to get on top early.
"When you're playing catch-up hockey all the time like that, it definitely wears on you," Brodziak said. "That's why it was nice for a few games we've been able to come out and get a lead early, and it does make the feeling a lot easier on the bench and throughout the team."
The Sabres would answer back in the second period, however. After the start of the period was delayed due to the house lights not turning on, Brian Flynn would score his first of the season at 15:04 to tie the game at 1-1.
Flynn's goal came on a 3-on-2 rush with Zemgus Girgensons and Mikhail Grigorenko. Flynn joined the rush late and was open for a pass from Girgensons and chipped it past Minnesota goalie Josh Harding (22 saves) to even up the game.
The play of Buffalo's third line was a high point for Sabres coach Ron Rolston.
"I thought that line helped us tonight," Rolston said. "I thought that line was good, especially [Flynn] and [Girgensons] on that line had a lot of energy tonight so they actually helped create on that line. But we're still not getting a lot of contributions from other guys.
"We certainly need our top-six to step up at the end of the day."
The lead would be short-lived, however; Pominville's goal 4:46 later would provide the difference. Enroth made 18 saves in the loss.
When asked about the current winless status of his former team, Pominville said he has sympathy for what they're going through.
"I definitely feel for the guys that have been there for a longer time," Pominville said. "They're competitors, they want to win. Right now it's not going their way, but I'm sure they'll stick with it and find a way to turn it around."
Sabres co-captain Steve Ott feels they're getting closer to breaking into the win column. Buffalo heads to New York to face the Islanders Tuesday night as they look to break their now seven-game winless streak (0-6-1).
"There are some bright spots. We finally outshot a team 23-20 and held them to 20 shots, which is outstanding," Ott said. "We come out on the losing end. Lack of production from all of us, including myself. At the end of the day, losing's just not the option."
The Wild visit Toronto on Tuesday night, looking to extend their three-game winning streak. Yeo knows it won't be easy against the Maple Leafs, who have won five of their first six games.
"We're going in to play a team tomorrow that's obviously been very hot and we can get a big dose of reality if we don't make sure we're ready to play the game," Yeo said. "We recognize that this was a good win and we did a lot of good things, but we feel we have another level and we'll have to bring it [on Tuesday]."