Pittsburgh Penguins Dominate Minnesota Wild 3-1


The Pittsburgh Penguins returned from the holiday break with a matchup against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.

1. 98. 3. 92. Final

The Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the Wild in Minnesota fresh off a much needed win against Columbus and a few days of rest via the holiday break.

The first period was a fairly quiet affair throughout. The Wild committed several neutral zone turnovers and the Penguins were unable to generate good scoring chances despite hemming their opponents into their own end.

The two teams traded power play opportunities, but there wasn’t much doing in either direction with the man advantage and the first period ended scoreless.

The second period saw the Pittsburgh Penguins continue their assault on Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

4:23 into the period, a buzzing Sidney Crosby got two opportunities on the Minnesota net and sniped the second one past Dubnyk for a well-deserved 1-0 Pens lead.

The goal also saw Kris Letang grab his 300th NHL point on the secondary assist.

Dominating the puck throughout the period, the Penguins finally got their second goal when Eric Fehr redirected a Kevin Porter pass into the net at 18:10. 2-0 Pens.

Forty five seconds later, the Wild came right back. Thomas Vanek carried the puck into the zone and hit a wide open Jason Zucker. Zucker fired it past Matt Murray to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1.

Not to be outdone, a late power play opportunity saw the Penguins score again after Crosby drove the net and put it off the post. The puck slid out into the crease right into Patric Hornqvist’s path and the goal-starved winger put it home.

The Pens led the Wild 3-1 after two periods.

The third frame featured a rather nasty hit from Jarret Stoll on Letang and not much else. The Wild pushed, Murray stood tall, and the Pens closed it out.

The Pittsburgh Penguins win 3-1. Two victories in a row for Mike Sullivan after an 0-4 start to his tenure.

Player Performance

  • Whether you’re a fan or detractor, there’s no denying things happen for the Pittsburgh Penguins with Kris Letang on the ice. If he can stay healthy and in the lineup, this team is more efficient and threatening. That late headshot by Jarret Stoll is concerning, but he did come back on the ice.
  • At some point in the game, I tweeted Patric Hornqvist will never score again as he flubbed another golden opportunity. A few minutes later he does what he does best…cleans up someone else’s scoring opportunity. I’m a firm believer that once the Pens start scoring again, Hornqvist’s goal total will organically increase because he will have the opportunity to score the dirty goals he’s used to.
  • Eric Fehr has also deserved a little more puck luck than he’s received, and tonight he had two glorious redirect opportunities. One found the net.
  • Matt Murray has been wonderful in net in replacement of Marc-Andre Fleury. If he continues to develop over the next year or two, it will be a real shame paying Fleury $5.75 million per year heading into his mid thirties when the Pens could be paying peanuts for Murray and bolstering their team elsewhere. Not to mention the obvious fact that Murray will likely become trade bait at some point if he doesn’t get his chance to shine in Pittsburgh. That’s a long way out, but I’m sure the Penguins brass are already considering what assets they can make available this year at the deadline if the team turns around. Murray is the biggest and with these performances his value only increases.
  • Didn’t see much happening with Phil Kessel tonight, but that’s Kessel for ya. Some nights he’s the spotlight, other nights he’s a far off headlight on a country back road.

Pittsburgh Penguins Player of the Game

The captain returned with a vengeance.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist and the proverbial “pep” was definitely in his step tonight. The Pens looked more like the team they were supposed to be, and their captain looked a lot more like the guy who dominated the league for the last decade.

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The Big Picture

Finally. Two wins in a row. A pretty complete performance from all aspects of the lineup.

The offense was buzzing early (even if it wasn’t scoring). The captain got in on the act. Patric Hornqvist got off the snide. The defense held up fairly well, and Matt Murray did Matt Murray things to make sure those few early premium Wild chances were not converted into an early Penguins deficit.

As a group the Pens played better than they have in some time, and this time it wasn’t against a bottom feeder like Columbus. The Wild sat seven points ahead of the Penguins coming into the contest, and are firmly in the mix in the brutal Central Division.

Next: Pens Offense Hurt By Poor Shooting?

It was good to see Sid come out to play tonight, but it’d be especially nice if we could see Evgeni Malkin and Sid putting up points on the same night.

Of late there seems to be a lot of trading off between the two, which is a nice thing to have with two generational superstars, but occasionally as a fan you’d love to see the supernova.

The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night at 8 PM EST.