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Penguins send Wild to sixth straight loss

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins handed the Minnesota Wild their sixth consecutive loss with a 7-2 win at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

With Pittsburgh leading by two early in the third period, Brandon Sutter beat Wild defenseman Ryan Suter to a loose puck along the right boards. Sutter charged into the offensive zone and pinpointed a shot over goalie Niklas Backstrom’s blocker into the upper-left corner of the net to give the Penguins a 4-1 lead at 5:03.

Defenseman Paul Martin scored Pittsburgh’s fifth goal when he was the last Penguins player to touch the puck before Wild defenseman Nate Prosser kicked it into his goal 9:08 into the period.

Kris Letang scored his ninth goal of the season 1:48 later. Justin Fontaine’s goal pulled the Wild within four, 6-2, with 6:03 remaining.

David Perron scored Pittsburgh’s fourth goal of the period, his second of the game and his third in four games with the Penguins, at 16:39.

"I thought we put a lot of pressure [on Minnesota]," Perron said. "Just lines after lines. … When you start getting confidence, it helps everybody. I’ve always said, when you play on good teams, you see the top guys making plays and it kind of trickles down all the way in the lineup."

The Penguins (26-10-6) remained one point behind the New York Islanders (59 points) in the Metropolitan Division with a second consecutive win following two losses. Minnesota (18-19-5) has scored two or fewer goals in each of its past four games and in five of its six straight losses.

The Wild held a players meeting following the loss that lasted about 20 minutes. Forward Mikko Koivu said "that’s going to stay here," regarding what was said in the meeting, and Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said it was an example of how his team has not quit.

"We unravel," Yeo said. "You look at the first portion of the game; I thought we had really good energy. I thought we were creating turnovers, we were creating scoring chances, we were defending, and something bad happens in the game and one play turns into many more."

Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves for his 22nd win and his first career victory against the Wild. Minnesota was the last NHL team Fleury had not defeated.

"I didn’t know that," Fleury said. "Oh well. That’s great. It’s about time, I guess."

Penguins forward Marcel Goc recorded Pittsburgh’s first shot when the puck hit off of Backstrom’s pad before hitting the left post 6:00 into the first period, but scored 16 seconds later.

Craig Adams sent a puck toward the Wild net, where Penguins forward Zach Sill was battling with defenseman Justin Falk. Sill gained position and flipped a pass to Goc, who charged the net and batted a wrist shot past Backstrom 6:16 into the first. It was Sill's first point in 48 NHL games.

"It feels good. It was a long time coming," Sill said. "We had a pretty good in-zone shift … I think I got a whack at it right after it hit the goalie there and then I saw [Goc] out of the corner of my eye and got it over to him and he put it in."

The Penguins were outshot 12-9 in the first period but controlled the majority of the action following Goc’s goal, leading to Perron’s first goal.

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff sent a slap shot into the Wild crease off of a Sidney Crosby faceoff win. Backstrom made a pad save, but allowed a rebound that Perron outraced Koivu to before sliding the puck through the crease on his forehand, quickly switching to his backhand and raising a shot into the net past a scrambling Backstrom with 7:56 left in the first.

Minnesota pulled to within 2-1 when Jonas Brodin placed a wrist shot over Fleury’s blocker into the upper-left corner 5:12 into the second period. But the Penguins took less than two minutes to reestablish their two-goal lead.

With Charlie Coyle in the penalty box for tripping Adams, Chris Kunitz scored five seconds into the power play to put Pittsburgh up 3-1 at 6:45. Letang’s slap shot deflected through traffic before Evgeni Malkin collected the rebound and backhanded a shot off Backstrom’s pads

Kunitz dove past Brodin to shovel the rebound by Backstrom’s right skate and into the net for his 13th goal of the season, tied for second on the Penguins behind Malkin (19).

Wild forward Zach Parise was displeased with how Minnesota responded to Pittsburgh taking a multiple-goal lead.

"Our effort was there? We lost 7-2," Parise said. "I don’t think there was a very good effort, no. You give up seven goals in a game, I’m not going to come out saying we had good effort."

Just before the tripping call on Coyle, Penguins forward Steve Downie left the game after being elbowed in his face by Suter between the faceoff circles in the Pittsburgh zone. Downie did not return.

Suter said the hit on Downie was unintentional and that he asked Crosby to apologize to Downie on his behalf.

Pittsburgh announced after the game that defenseman Olli Maatta, who has missed 16 games with an upper-body injury, will have shoulder surgery on Wednesday and is out for the season.

"It’s really disappointing that it had to get to that point," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "With the length of time, everybody knows, they rehabbed and rehabbed and still took a close look at the injury and finally, it came to a point in time where you had to make a decision and yesterday and today, we knew they were making a decision on what they wanted to do and they decided to go ahead with the surgery. It’s not disappointing from the point of view that he has to have surgery.

"It’s just that he’s such a good, young player. We’ve got to make sure we look out for what’s best for his future."

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