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Crosby, Murray help Penguins defeat Wild

by Dan Myers / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang returned to the lineup and helped the Pittsburgh Penguins play one of their most complete games of the season, a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

Crosby had a goal and an assist, Letang had two assists and goaltender Matthew Murray made 25 saves for the Penguins, who won their second straight game under coach Mike Sullivan after losing the first four.

"I think so," Crosby said when asked about the Penguins playing a complete game. "I thought the Columbus game [on Monday] was up there too, so I think we were just building off of that. Very similar-type effort and we got rewarded for it.

"For the amount of days we had off, I thought we came out pretty sharp, generated a lot of chances and I thought we continued that most of the game."

Crosby, who missed the game Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a lower-body injury, scored his first goal since Dec. 5 to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead early in the second period.

"I felt good," Crosby said. "You get a little bit of time off and you just want to get back out there and use that rest. I was happy to be back out there, and when everyone is playing like that, it helps everybody."

Letang missed six games with an upper-body injury sustained Dec. 9 and left this game briefly in the third period after he was checked near his head. Sullivan said he expects Letang to be fine.

Patric Hornqvist and Eric Fehr scored late in the second period for the Penguins (17-14-3).

"Our effort was there from goalies, to [defensemen] to forwards," Hornqvist said. "We paid the price out there. That was a great team effort."

Jason Zucker scored a goal and goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for Minnesota (18-10-6), which is 1-7-1 in its past nine games following the Christmas break. The Wild (18-10-6) have been outscored 40-22 and have a minus-77 shot differential in those games.

"Unfortunately, it's something that's become a little bit predictable, these games after Christmas," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It's something we have to fix."

Murray, making his third NHL start, was rarely tested through the first half of the game; the Penguins outshot the Wild 22-6 through the 10-minute mark of the second period.

"First period, it seemed like we were defending OK, we were battling OK, but we couldn't make a play," Yeo said. "Couldn't make a pass, just slapping pucks to people, not taking ice when it was there. Didn't seem to have the desire to want the puck in a lot of situations and I think they just took the game over from there."

Crosby's goal at 4:23 of the second came after Wild defenseman Ryan Suter whiffed on the puck on a forecheck at the offensive blue line. Crosby's initial shot sailed wide of the net but was corralled by David Perron, who set up Crosby for a one-timer from the top of the left circle for his seventh of the season.

The Penguins capitalized on two Wild errors later in the period. Forward Kevin Porter beat Suter to the puck in the right corner to avoid an icing, and Fehr then beat Justin Fontaine to the front of the net, putting Porter's perfect pass through Dubnyk for his fourth at 18:10.

"We were turning the puck over. Just couldn't execute, that was our biggest thing," Suter said. "Couldn't come out of our end, couldn't come through of the neutral zone. Turning pucks over to those guys is a tough thing to do and basically, I think that's the result."

Minnesota answered less than a minute later when Zucker collected a nice pass from Thomas Vanek inside the left circle and beat Murray to the glove side for his ninth at 18:55, but Hornqvist jammed in a loose puck in the crease while on the power play at 19:26 to make it 3-1.

"Responding to the adversities in the game is really important to us becoming a better team and making sure we don't let those things affect is in a negative way," Sullivan said. "That was a big goal for us."

Pittsburgh will finish a two-game road trip with the second of back-to-back games against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Sunday.

Minnesota will finish a four-game homestand against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

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