The Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2-0) simplified version was more aggressive against Saturday. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan showed some trust in his fourth line which all began the week in the AHL and they responded with a pair of goals, and Sidney Crosby continued his beast mode performance as the Penguins raced past the struggling Minnesota Wild (0-4-0), 6-4 at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Penguins broke the game open in the latter half of the second period then survived a late push for their second consecutive win. Penguins rookie forward and Minnesota native Adam Johnson scored his first NHL goal on an assist from Hollidaysburg, Pa native Sam Lafferty. A few minutes later. Lafferty and Johnson then assisted on Joseph Blandisi’s first goal as a Penguin. Those were the fourth and fifth goals against beleaguered Minnesota.
Lafferty (1) scored the empty-net goal, too. He scored three points, including his first NHL marker.
“We put (the line) in some defensive situations against some of their top people and they did a good job defending,” head coach Mike Sullivan praised the fourth line. “When you can have the trust in those guys that we can put them in those situations, it gives us an opportunity to use Crosby’s line, for example, in an advantageous line offensively.”
“I thought they did a good job.”
Patric Hornqvist continued to make noise in the early season. Hornqvist has been in a constant war in front of opposing nets. He had a glowing performance against Anaheim Thursday night and was rewarded for more net-front play with five minutes remaining in the first period. After Ryan Suter cross-checked Brandon Tanev, the Penguins scored a power-play goal.
Crosby showed slick edgework and puck-patience to hang onto the puck, he zipped a cross-ice pass to defenseman Justin Schultz, who quickly balanced himself. Schultz pushed a perfect shot-pass towards Hornqvist (3) who deflected it past Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.
“All of the elements were there. Speed, timing, good decisions, great execution and I think Sid brought it to another level,” Sullivan said. “It was a great play all around.”
Hornqvist was more than a pest. In the second period, Hornqvist touched off a melee which resulted in two Minnesota defenders holding him as Dubnyk threw punches before referees and Penguins could even the numbers.
Early in the second period, the Penguins laid claim to the game and effectively put Minnesota away. On one shift, Crosby had a pair of breakaways. He drew a penalty on the first attempt, then during the delayed penalty he slipped behind a pair of Minnesota defenders who collided with each other in classic Keystone Cops style. Crosby (3) buried his second chance by holding onto a backhand deke and roofing his shot just under the crossbar.
The Penguins scored four goals in the second period.
Pittsburgh Penguins Pull Away
Midway through the second period, A. Johnson (1) who was an emergency recall this week, blasted a juicy rebound past Dubnyk. Dubnyk kicked Lafferty’s shot to the left wing to a waiting Johnson for the rookie’s first NHL goal. It was also Lafferty’s first NHL point.
The pair hooked up again in service to another emergency recall Joseph Blandisi, who was recalled Friday. Lafferty missed Johnson on a stretch pass but Johnson outskated the Minnesota defenders to negate icing. Johnson circled the Minnesota net and Blandisi was uncovered in the slot. Blandisi (1) didn’t miss.
Johnson played less than two minutes on Thursday night, but Lafferty played more than 10 minutes. Saturday was the first of back-to-back games so the Penguins rolled four lines. Head coach Mike Sullivan’s trust was rewarded. The Penguins chased Dubnyk after Blandisi’s goal.
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (2) also scored midway through the second period. He also ripped a wrist shot top shelf over Dubnyk. Letang and Crosby each had a goal and an assist. Crosby extended his point streak to five games; he has scored in each game this season.
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray was sharp until the late Minnesota push. He was able to peer through traffic to make several stops and made 29 saves on 33 shots for his 100th career win. Murray became the fourth Penguins goalie to win 100 games with the team.
Minnesota had a goal waved off in the second and third periods. In the second period, referees ruled Murray had the puck covered before Minnesota snapped it into the net. In the third period, referees ruled on the ice and after video review that Murray was interfered with when Ryan Hartman slid into Murray after colliding with Penguins forward Jake Guentzel.
Minnesota Jason Zucker (2) scored a power-play goal in the second period when he deflected Brad Hunt’s shot from the slot. And Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon (1) scored the second Minnesota goal after Minnesota again crashed the net.
Penguins winger Jake Guentzel added a goal for good measure midway through the third period. Crosby again won a corner battle, moved the puck to Hornqvist who touched it over to Guentzel (2).
Minnesota made the score closer with two goals 21 seconds apart late in the third period. With just under five minutes remaining, defenseman Brad Hunt (2) scored on a shot from the point. Moments later, Luke Kunin (1) also scored on a long-range shot.
Minnesota pressed for more in the waning minutes but could not overcome the 6-2 lead.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman John Marino played well and made his third straight appearance.
Hornqvist and Crosby each had a goal and assist.
Editors Note: The original headline and story incorrectly listed Sidney Crosby with two assists and three points.