It was game that was billed like two prize fighters getting ready to go toe to toe. It was the two teams in the top three in scoring in the league. It was the Wild that owned the best defense. The Wild had a strong penalty kill, while the Penguins had the best power play in the league. What ended up happening on Tuesday was the Wild, who hadn't lost at home yet this season, fell in regulation in a very lack-luster fashion.
The Wild were hemmed in their own zone almost immediately. It was a situation where the Pens forced three straight icing infractions from the Wild. The neutral zone was impossible to traverse for Minnesota all night. There were sticks in passing lanes breaking up any breakout passes and it was just an all-around sloppy period. Then right as the "one minute remaining," announcement came from PA announcer Adam Abrams, Nick Spaling scored to open the scoring.
The Wild were banking on the fact that they are the best second period team to push back. After the Wild were pressuring in the Pittsburgh zone, Nate Prosser was caught attempting to pinch in along the blue line and sprung Brandon Sutter on an odd-man rush the other way. He got off a wrister that beat Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper cleanly for the 2-0 lead. Minnesota got the game's first power play, but it was Pittsburgh that took just eleven seconds on their first opportunity to get the third goal. The Penguins have a 41.9 percent power play and they made it look way to easy as Chris Kunitz tipped an Evgeni Malkin shot past Kuemper.
Minnesota did come out of the locker room with a little more urgency, but missing Zach Parise due to an upper body injury. The Wild pressed, but if you looked at the Corsi charts, you could see the score effects taking shape. The Wild did finally break through Thomas Greiss with a Nino Niederreiter short-handed goal. Minnesota's penalty kill now has the same amount of goals as the power play 11 games into the season. The penalty kill was able to kill off the other two Pittsburgh power plays.
On a late third period power play for the Wild, a mad scramble in front of the Pittsburgh net looked to have resulted in a Mikko Koivu goal, but the game officiating tandem of Graham Skilliter and Francois St. Laurent waved it off for an apparent incidental goaltender interference. Mikael Granlund was in the crease and did interfere, but he did originally have the puck, got checked into Greiss, then the puck squirted out to Koivu who flipped the puck just past the goal line before Penguins player used his free hand to block the puck. The play was reviewed, even though it was a non-reviewable play. The Xcel Energy Center, which was quiet for most of the game (and who could blame them), erupted into a pyroclastic flow of boos.
Following the disallowed goal the Wild pulled Kuemper in favor of the extra-attacker with two minutes to go. Patrick Hornqvist would get the empty net tally after Matt Dumba made a desperation play to keep the puck in the offensive zone and over-skated it.
The Wild fall 4-1 to the Penguins and Minnesota will look to figure out what happened and correct it be fore the game film travels around the league and other teams attempt to mimic what the Pens did Tuesday.