The Pittsburgh Penguins skated around, past and through the Minnesota Wild. Sidney Crosby claimed the puck early in the first period, and the Penguins never gave it back. Crosby set up three goals and in the process passed Jaromir Jagr for second on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. The Penguins beat the Wild, 6-3.
It was the Penguins last game before the All-Star game, this weekend. With the win, the Penguins vaulted into second place in the Metro Division, but games in hand could still push them out of the playoff seedings.
Four minutes into the game, defenseman Ian Cole pinched in the offensive zone to keep the play alive. Crosby quickly put the puck on Dominik Simon’s stick in the right wing circle. Simon (3) snapped it past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. 1-0.
“It felt good from the beginning (of the game),” said Simon. “I think we had a good forecheck, supported each other and stayed close. I think we were right on them.”
Midway through the period, Evgeni Malkin (22) was credited with a power-play goal. Malkin’s centering pass from behind the goal line deflected off Wild defender Ryan Suter and behind Dubnyk. 2-0.
The game was still competitive, but not for much longer.
The dam burst midway through the second period. Cole, who was inserted into the lineup after a lengthy run of healthy scratches, held the puck in the offensive zone, again. He played ahead to Malkin, who fed Carl Hagelin (4) in the slot. 3-0.
ABout 90 seconds later, the Penguins converted a four-on-one. Yes…four Penguins. Crosby raced out of the defensive zone with the puck, and no Wild followed. None. The Penguins momentarily morphed into the Harlem Globetrotters with a few sharp, quick passes. Finally, Crosby set up the trailing defenseman, Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin (3) put it in the wide-open net. 4-0.
Out went Dubnyk, in came Alex Stalock. Poor, poor Alex Stalock.
The Penguins scored two more goals in the first three minutes of the third period, just in case Minnesota had any hope for a comeback.
Malkin (23) again banked the puck off Suter like a driveway backboard. This time from the right wing circle. 5-0.
The Penguins sixth goal, just 50 seconds later was beautiful play by Simon. He danced around a couple of Wild defenders and unleashed a wicked wrister from the slot over Wild goaltender Alex Stalock’s glove hand. 6-0.
The Wild added a few goals midway through the third period, as the Penguins relaxed.
Eric Staal, Mikael Granlund, Jonas Brodin scored within 2:02 midway through the third period, but the Penguins regained their composure and coasted to the win.
Penguins rookie goaltender Casey DeSmith was solid when challenged. The Wild had just 10 shots through the first 30 minutes.
“Not an ideal game for a goalie. We dominated the first two periods, and their chances were few and far between, so just to stay in the game is tough,” DeSmith said. “It gets kind of loose there at the end when it’s 6-0.”
The Penguins outshot the Wild 39-26.
Former Penguins stalwart Matt Cullen played over 12 minutes and recorded one shot on goal.
Postgame Analysis & Press Box Nachos
–Kris Letang had a solid game. The defenseman created several strong scoring chances with offensive pushes. Astutely, several fans, via Twitter, pointed out Letang’s first-period turnover from behind his net. Count this as a case when the television didn’t show you the play.
The Penguins were caught flat-footed by the Wild. Minnesota blanketed the Penguins before the Penguins could spring a breakout play, so Letang tried to fire the puck to center. Like a quarterback caught in the pocket without options, Letang tried to throw it away.
All-in-all, it was a four star game by Letang
–Ian Cole drew into the lineup because Matt Hunwick is suffering from an upper-body injury. When asked about his decision to insert Cole into the lineup, Sullivan was deliberate and specific that Hunwick is injured…but “we thought Colesy played a strong game.”
In other words, don’t expect Cole to remain in the lineup. However, Cole created offense for the Penguins. He pinched a pair of times in the first period which led to the Penguins first two goals.
The L.A. Kings and Winnipeg Jets again scouted the Penguins (but not Boston), Thursday night.
–Carl Hagelin continued his resurgence with a goal and an assist. Malkin had two goals and an assist. Phil Kessel and Crosby had three assists.
Kessel is now 5th in NHL scoring. Crosby is 6th.
None of Kessel’s points occurred on the third line. He had two power-play assists and was part of the Malkin-Hagelin tic-tac-toe play in the second period.
–Riley Sheahan played 16:25, but did not record a shot on goal. Nor did linemate Jake Guentzel. In a game which was 6-0, and the Penguins dominated, those stats are as concerning as Crosby’s three assists were impressive.
–If you missed my radio hit on 93-7 the Fan, Paul Zeise asked, “why do the Penguins look faster?”
The answers are simple. One, Dominik Simon beside Crosby. Two, Carl Hagelin. Three, Carl Hagelin. And four, Hagelin.
Enjoy the All-Star game! We’ve got features on Dominik Simon, Casey DeSmith, Kris Letang and…a look at the greatest All-Star game ever. Enjoy!