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Malkin lifts Penguins with four points against Wild

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin spoke up Saturday and delivered Tuesday to help the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 at Consol Energy Center.

Malkin said the Penguins had to "stop and look in the mirror" following a 4-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday that resulted in a closed-door meeting. In Pittsburgh's first game since that meeting, Malkin had a hand in all of Pittsburgh's goals (two goals, two assists).

"We talked yesterday and I think we changed the momentum tonight and showed how we can play," Malkin said. "We're still not perfect, but it's a little bit better, and I hope that now we're starting to understand what's going on with the team and support each other, and start winning."

With the Penguins holding a one-goal lead midway through the second period, Malkin one-timed a feed from defenseman Kris Letang past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk to put Pittsburgh up 3-1 at 8:15; it was his 100th NHL power-play goal.

Pittsburgh (11-7-0) was 2-for-6 on the power play after failing to score on 13 opportunities in its previous three games.

Malkin scored again with 8:49 remaining in the second to increase the lead to 4-1. He received a pass from Phil Kessel before slipping the puck between his legs to deke around forward Mikael Granlund and taking a wrist shot under Dubnyk's blocker.

Minnesota (10-4-3) failed to earn a point for the second time in nine games. It has allowed at least one power-play goal in each of its past three games.

"We came in saying we know we can't take six penalties in the game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We've been taking too many penalties. Sometimes it's because we're chasing, whether it's the puck or the game. We have to do a better job of staying out of the box. We're missing some players to our game. We're missing some penalty killers as well, and I think we're feeling that."

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon's power-play goal cut the Penguins' lead to 4-2 with 3:37 remaining in the second period. Mikko Koivu scored during a 5-on-3 to make it 4-3 2:24 into the third period.

Between the two Malkin goals, the Penguins lost defenseman Olli Maatta to an apparent injury after Wild forward Nino Niederreiter checked him into the boards near the Minnesota bench with its door open and 9:51 remaining in the second. Maatta remained on the ice while being treated by trainers before he was helped down the runway.

Penguins coach Mike Johnston did not offer an update on Maatta's status.

Niederreiter said there was no ill intent on the play.

"It's unfortunate, the whole situation; I pushed him then I went for a change," Niederreiter said. "I think he toe-picked at the same time and the door was open, and he obviously fell into the boards. That's what happened. You never want to see anything like that. I feel bad, but it's unfortunate."

Malkin's impressive game began 1:12 into the first period, when he sent a wrist shot into the Minnesota crease with forward David Perron battling in front. Perron corralled the rebound, dragged the puck around Dubnyk's left pad and curled a shot inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.

The Wild answered when forward Jason Pominville fed Granlund between Malkin and Perron. Granlund one-timed a snap shot past Marc-Andre Fleury's blocker for a 1-1 tie with 7:03 remaining in the first.

"They came out hard. We knew they were going to," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "They were all over us that first period. Then, we gave up a couple power-play goals. Then, we finally started to settle in, I thought. The third period, I thought we played well, but a little too late."

After recording one shot on their first power play, the Penguins improved on their second. A few early scoring chances sent Dubnyk scrambling in his crease, and Beau Bennett capitalized by one-timing a pass from Malkin past Dubnyk's glove for a 2-1 lead with 2:49 left in the first.

"I think everybody to a man took [the loss to New Jersey] personally," Johnston said. "Coaching staff, players, we just weren't good enough in [New] Jersey, and that type of battle, that type of effort as the game went along, you can't relax in any game. It doesn't matter what's happening. You have to have that battle. That's what we were most disappointed with as a group."

Pittsburgh defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in a shootout Wednesday and lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 Friday.

"I like the way the group dealt with it," Johnston said. "I like the way they responded. It shows great character in the room. Yeah, we had a good game against Montreal, but we didn't have good games against Columbus and [New] Jersey. They dealt with it right away."

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