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Wild hand Canadiens fifth consecutive loss

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It's amazing what some free time and a little YouTube can do for a teenage hockey player.

Charlie Coyle scored the game-winner and Darcy Kuemper made 24 saves to help the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.

Coyle's goal early in the third period gave the Wild a 2-0 lead and was linked to time spent on the Internet watching highlights of Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg.

At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Coyle isn't built like the skilled Red Wings captain, but his move to get around Canadiens defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was certainly reminiscent.

After a turnover at the far blue line, Nino Niederreiter chipped the puck forward to Coyle flying down the left wing. The power forward went strong to his backhand, got around Beaulieu and had room to get it back to his forehand with enough strength to beat Mike Condon blocker side under the crossbar for his eighth goal at 4:55.

"Growing up, watching those guys and those little moves," Coyle, 23, said. "That's what you try when you're younger and the little things you have in the back of your mind."

Kuemper made sure the two-goal lead stood up, surrendering a goal to Daniel Carr with 7:14 remaining but making nine saves in the third. Kuemper has won his past three starts and is 4-0-4.

"I think it's been a week since my last start, so it was nice to get back in there and keep the good things going and keep the momentum going forward," Kuemper said. "It's nice when you get to play and get into a rhythm. I'm just trying to keep it right now."

Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate that this was a game Devan Dubnyk may have started earlier this season. But with the way Kuemper has played of late, keeping him out of the crease has proven difficult.

Kuemper is 3-0-2 over his past five starts and has allowed a total of five goals in regulation during that stretch.

Yeo said he may have no choice but to find starts for Kuemper when the Wild resume play Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I have Christmas break to think about that stuff," Yeo said.

Minnesota (18-9-6) avoided a three-game losing streak and begins the break alone in fourth place in the Central Division with 42 points.

Condon made 20 saves for Montreal (20-13-3), which has lost five consecutive games and dropped to 2-9-0 in December. Despite the rough stretch, the Canadiens are atop the Atlantic Division standings with 43 points, one ahead of the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.

"That was a really tight game for both teams," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Both teams stuck to their structure. They capitalized on the mistakes and we had two big ones."

The Wild led 1-0 after one period, taking advantage of a turnover by Montreal's Alexei Emelin in his own zone, who attempted a pass that landed on Mikael Granlund's stick. Granlund's shot was denied by Condon, but Jason Pominville got the rebound in the slot and scored on a backhand shot at 12:38 for his fifth goal.

Montreal outshot Minnesota 8-7 in the second period, which was played predominantly in the neutral zone. But the Canadiens fell behind by two when Coyle scored 4:55 into the third.

"We deserve better," Beaulieu said. "We've had some bad games along this stretch but we've played some good hockey, especially tonight. Good goaltender, [defense] played well, forwards were playing our system. I know we keep saying, 'It was just one of those nights,' but we played a good hockey game tonight."

Minnesota had two potential goals reviewed, including one by Zach Parise at 10:15 of the third period, but on each occasion, the no-goal call on the ice was confirmed. Parise's wraparound was nearly stuffed in between Condon's pad and the post and would have made it a 3-0 game.

Instead, Carr's backhand shot less than three minutes later brought the Canadiens back within one goal and provided them with some jump.

"It was huge," Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban said. "Obviously we needed to get two, but it was a big goal and we pushed back after that. It's unfortunate we weren't able to get the second one."

Montreal got Condon to the bench with 1:24 remaining but did not get the tying goal.

Tom Gilbert left early in the game because of a lower-body injury and did not return, leaving Montreal with five defensemen.

"[It's tough] especially on a back-to-back, especially on the road," Therrien said. "But I thought our defense did a good job."

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