The Pittsburgh Penguins lost a two-goal lead and winger Jason Zucker. In a breathtaking game against the Minnesota Wild, officials alternated between soft calls and surprising non-calls. The teams needed more than sixty minutes before Evgeni Malkin got three whacks near the net to get the puck across the goal line.
Malkin (17) scored the OT game-winner and the Penguins beat Minnesota 4-3 in OT at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night. Rickard Rakell had two goals. The Penguins had five shots in overtime.
The Penguins were 29-4-2 when scoring the first goal and scored first again on Thursday night. With good speed after the opening faceoff, the Penguins scored just one minute into the game. Rickard Rakell (18) scored his second Penguins goal when he deflected John Marino’s point shot, which was meant for Rakell to redirect.
Jason Zucker, who missed the last 30 games and 37 of the last 38, returned to the Penguins lineup. It was also his first game in Minnesota since the Penguins acquired him for a small ransom approaching the 2020 NHL trade deadline. Zucker played nine seasons and 456 games with the Wild.
Zucker earned a second assist on Rakell’s goal.
However, then Jason Zucker suffered a gruesome injury midway through the second period and it’s natural to assume he will be out of the lineup for an extended time, again. He went awkwardly into the wall and his right leg buckled after getting a little shove from Kevin Fiala. Two Penguins, including Sidney Crosby, helped Zucker off the ice.
“I don’t have anything for you as far as where we are at. He is being evaluated as we speak. Hopefully, it won’t be anything too significant. we’ll have to wait and see,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I feel for him. He’s worked so hard to this point and I knew this game was an important one for him.”
However, Minnesota had three power plays, including two full opportunities in the first period. Minnesota converted one midway through the first period when they disheveled the Penguins’ PK. After a mad scramble near the net, Matt Dumba (7) poked the puck which eeked across the goal line. Officials initially ruled no goal, but a short review confirmed white ice between the puck and goal line.
The officials were not shy on Thursday. By early in the second period, officials had assessed each team three penalties. The third time was the charm for the Penguins, which needed only eight seconds for Jake Guentzel (32) to put back the pizza goalie Cam Talbot served into the slot.
The Penguins were on the power play for about four of the first six minutes of the second period. Minnesota is the third-most penalized team in the league, averaging over 10 minutes per game.
Midway through the second period, Rakell (19) scored his second goal of the game when he and Sidney Crosby completed a two-on-one.
As Rakell netted the goal, Zucker suffered the presumed lower-body injury behind the play.
After Zucker’s injury, the Penguins were not the same team for quite a while, and their lines were jumbled without Zucker. Danton Heinen didn’t play much in the third period because Sullivan had to deploy Teddy Blueger and Brian Boyle in a different rotation.
Minnesota had a hard push in the late second and first part of the third period. It became a chaotic game with intense scrums for the puck in the Penguins crease and Minnesota Grade A scoring chances.
Late in the second period, Minnesota seemed to score their second goal, but Marcus Foligno was ruled offside after video review. Penguins video coach Andy Saucier remains undefeated in challenges.
About 16 seconds later, Minnesota scored for real. Former Penguins forward Frederick Gaudreau (10) found the soft spot in the slot and ripped a one-timer past DeSmith.
Early in the third period, the Wild tied the game after Ryan Hartman danced around both Mike Matheson and Evgeni Malkin behind the Penguins net. Hartman set up Kirill Kaprizov (38) for a one-timer in the slot.
With the goal, Kaprizov tied the Wild record with 83 points in a season.
Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan inserted defenseman Mark Friedman into the lineup and made Marcus Pettersson a scratch.
Casey DeSmith stopped 26 of 29 shots in regulation. Cam Talbot, who started instead of former Penguins stalwart Marc-Andre Fleury, made 29 saves on 32 shots in regulation.