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Penguins lose Olli Maatta, Wild lose game 4-3

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota got off to a fast start of trying to comeback against the Penguins Tuesday night. A struggling Pittsburgh team took just 1:12 to score and Evgeni Malkin's four point night did the Wild in. Pittsburgh held a players-only meeting, something the Wild is far too familiar with, after their previous game in New Jersey and looked to come out focused against Minnesota.

David Perron corralled a juicy rebound off Devan Dubnyk's pad and tapped it into the net for an early 1-0 lead. The Wild answered back with a goal from Mikael Granlund. Jason Pominville centered a pass to the slot for Granlund and scored just his second goal all season. Beau Bennett scored on the power play less than five minutes later on a nice feed from Malkin. The Pens were ale to keep zone time and just beat a gassed PK unit for the Wild to the puck on every instance. Even Dubnyk was crappie flopping to make saves. The period ended with a 2-1 deficit for the Wild.

In the second period, Minnesota did come out and struggled for the first nine minutes and change to get shots on Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins defense could be had, but the Wild's inability to grind away on those defenseman really went a long way in the loss for Minnesota. At the 7:02 mark of the period, Chris Porter was called for a high sticking minor. Only, he wasn't the one with the high stick. Kris Letang took the stick from his own teammate, but the officiating crew of TJ Luxmore and Francios St. Laurent saw it as Porter's stick.

Evgeni Malkin would then score on the ensuing power play, but not without a bit of controversy. Wild coach Mike Yeo would challenge the goal on the basis of goaltender interference. Patrick Hornqvist did make some contact with Dubnyk, and even jabbed his stick underneath the goalie with the puck nowhere near the crease (because it was getting rotated around to Malkin's stick), The referees would take a lengthy review of the play, but ultimately confirmed a good goal.

Shortly there after, Nino Niederreiter gave Olli Maatta a cross check to the back near the Wild bench. Maatta had given up the puck to his teammate, but Niederreiter went for the check regardless as other Wild players were looking to make a line change. The door for the bench popped open right as Maatta made contact with the boards, and Maatta was down, and down hard. His right hip/side area made contact with the open edge of the doorway. The hit was unnecessary. It was from behind, and should have been, at a minimum, a boarding penalty, but the refs did not make any call on the play. It shouldn't be surprising if Nino gets a call from the league on that hit. With no prior league discipline, it would be tough to see a suspension for Nino, but getting a fine should not be out of the question. The injury is more of less a freak accident of the unnecessary and risky hit from behind.

Malkin scored his second goal of the game to make it 4-1 Penguins. Then Jared Spurgeon scored on the power play, ending a "decade-long power play goal drought against the Penguins." Seriously, it was that long. But when you factor in unbalanced schedules, the Wild power play being what it is/was, and the Penguins being the class of the NHL during most of that stretch, it's not really a real talker. What is a talker is that Spurgeon's power play goal was the first since the game that Zach Parise was injured. That and he's an amazing shooter from about 40 feet.

Mikko Koivu scored early in the third period on a two-man advantage (wait, the Wild on a 5v3 PP?!?!?! You serious Clark?). It was Koivu's fourth goal of the year and was a nice feed from Granlund. Koivu still hasn't scored a goal at even strength, but we'll take it.

As the time began to wane on Minnesota, a badly timed Delay of Game penalty by Ryan Suter when he deposited the puck into the penalty bench with just 3:22 remaining in the game. That all but sapped any real chance the Wild had to attempt to tie the game. Sure, matching roughing minors to Ryan Carter and Perron gave the teams more room with 4-on-4 action. With Dubnyk pulled with just over a minute left, Minnesota would get one really good crack at the Penguins' net with Thomas Vanek knocking on the door, but Fleury was equal to the task.

The Wild fall 4-3 in Pittsburgh and are unable to keep pace with the St. Louis Blues in the division.