The Pittsburgh Penguins kept the kids happy Saturday afternoon.
Joe Morrow, Pascal Dupuis and Brian Strait scored power-play goals in a 3:16 span of the second period as the Penguins used a dominant special-teams effort to defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-1 on the second annual "Free Game For Kids" day at Consol Energy Center.
Evgeni Malkin also scored a power-play goal and contributed a pair of assists for the Penguins, who went 4-for-6 with the extra man and remained unbeaten in the preseason.
Eric Nystrom got the Wild on the board with 12:37 remaining, but they came up empty on nine power-play opportunities of their own.
Approximately 18,000 tickets to the game were distributed to area youth hockey organizations, the Tickets For Kids Foundation, Hill District youth, and members of the TGI Friday’s Penguins Kids Club, among other groups. The kids -- as well as those adults in attendance -- found plenty to cheer about following a slow start for both sides.
After the Wild came up empty on five power-play opportunities through the first half of the game, including a two-man advantage for 64 seconds, the Penguins took advantage on a 5-on-3 of their own to open the scoring with 9:26 left in the second period.
Letang took a pass at the right point and crossed with Morrow before feeding the 18-year-old first-round pick for a drive that beat goalie Niklas Backstrom with Chris Kunitz setting a screen in front.
Dupuis made it 2-0 just 78 seconds later on another power play, skating in and ripping a shot past Backstrom. Evgeni Malkin picked up assists on each of the first two goals, but Pittsburgh wasn't finished capitalizing on Minnesota's parade to the penalty box.
Joe Vitale won a faceoff cleanly back to the point, drove to the net and provided a screen as a point shot from Strait got past Backstrom with 6:10 remaining and two seconds left on a Penguins' power play.
Malkin extended the lead to four goals 5:01 into the third on a one-timer just four seconds into another man advantage.
Nystrom then ended goalie Brad Thiessen's shutout bid by scoring off a 2-on-1 break.
Before the game, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he was excited to see what Morrow and Thiessen would do with their opportunities.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Joe in his second game. He's been playing extremely well. It’s probably the best he's looked on the ice was in that game with Kris Letang, so he's going to get that opportunity now also," Bylsma said.
"Brad Thiessen is going to get the whole game tonight. Brad is a guy that's done exceptional in the organization over the last two years in Wilkes-Barre. He's got the opportunity here and we need to see him play some hockey games. So we’ll look to the whole game tonight and we're looking forward to seeing Brad."