Following a few damaging losses to the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, the Minnesota Wild came into Pittsburgh as a very desperate team. With three losses in a row, and sitting seven points out of a playoff spot, they badly needed the two points from tonight’s game.
Unfortunately, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated this evening and won by a final score of 7-2, leaving Minnesota with another unsavory loss, and still far out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
The game started out pretty even the first five minutes, but the Penguins struck first as Evgeni Malkin got a pass all alone out front, and he deposited it into the open net, giving Pittsburgh the early lead. Pittsburgh recorded another goal before the intermission, however, as Jared McCann caught a pass from Dominik Simon out front and tapped it in to extend the lead to 2-0.
Although it took over half the period, the Penguins started to pour it on in the second, as Bryan Rust sniped one past Devan Dubnyk on an odd man rush to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead. Only a minute later, the Penguins extended the lead to 4-0, as Malkin threw a pass toward the net that deflected off of the stick of Ryan Suter and into the net for what would be the eventual game-winning goal.
However, Minnesota did get on the board late in the second. Zach Parise caught a pass from Kevin Fiala and beat Pittsburgh netminder Tristan Jarry up high, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 4-1 going into the third period.
Early in the final period, Marcus Foligno rushed out alone on a breakaway, and he made an impressive deke to get around Jarry, which brought Minnesota to within two goals.
That goal by Foligno seemed to give Minnesota some life, as they started to pressure more in the offensive zone and had a few good scoring chances. Nevertheless, the Penguins added goals from Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon just 39 seconds apart, making it 6-2.
The deficit got even worse when Alex Galchenyuk whipped a shot over the glove of Dubnyk and into the net, extending Pittburgh’s lead to 7-2 with just a few minutes remaining in the game.
While it really didn’t mean much in the end, Zach Parise did put home a rebound for his second goal of the game. His goal came on the power play, and cut the Pittsburgh lead to 7-3 with just 13 seconds remaining.
This was a downright brutal loss for the Wild, as they were outplayed in pretty much every portion of the game. While they did score three goals, it didn’t make up for the uneven play in all three zones against a very skilled Penguins team. Anyone else having flashbacks to the home opener?
Starting the day seven points out of a playoff spot, that gap might become even wider in the next few days, with several matchups between Central Division teams taking place tonight and through the rest of the week.
Answers to our Burning Questions
1. Can the Wild stay out of the penalty box?
In a word, nope. The Wild took four penalties this game, two of which the Penguins converted on. It’s safe to say that penalties have been an issue for Minnesota lately, as they simply can’t afford to give other teams this many chances to score, especially when the Wild already struggle to score. It’s one of the several things that the team will need to fix in order to get back into the playoff race.
2. Can the Wild goaltending keep them in the game?
Dubnyk isn’t totally to blame for tonight’s loss. Due to a lineup error, Minnesota only dressed five defensemen instead of six, and therefore played shorthanded on the blue line all night. That was bound to cause some interesting plays — and it did. The defense scrambling to make up for a missing defenseman didn’t do much to help Dubnyk in net. So don’t lay all the blame on him for allowing seven goals on 29 shots. Some of those were bound to get by Dubnyk after the chaos at the blue line.
3. Can the Wild shut down the Penguins’ fourth line?
This was one of the few things the Wild did well in this game, which is saying a lot. Most of the Pittsburgh offense came from the top six, and their fourth line didn’t have as much of an offensive output as in previous games. Despite being down a defenseman, the Wild were able to hold most of the bottom six Penguins players off the scoresheet. Small silver linings, but we’ll take it.
The Wild will be back at it in St. Paul on Thursday evening against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. CT.