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Aftermath: Wild 2, Penguins 1

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Photo Gallery: Wild 2, Pens 1
Video: Game Highlights
Pittsburgh carried over its third period and overtime performance against Columbus 24 hours prior to dominate the action against the Minnesota Wild in the opening frame. Players such as Sidney Crosby, Chris Conner and Jordan Staal combined speed and power to constantly apply pressure in the offensive zone, leading to several breaks. Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was a wall in the crease, making 15 saves as Minnesota somehow managed a 2-1 lead despite being outshot 16-4.

There are many nights through the course of an 82-game schedule where a team is forced to ask their netminder to carry them. Saturday was one of those instances for Minnesota, and Backstrom was there to answer the call. He constantly stymied the Penguins as they spent a majority of the contest in the Minnesota end. Backstrom finished the evening with 34 saves on 35 shots.
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Niklas Backstrom made 34 saves and the Minnesota Wild won on the road for the first time this season, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Saturday night.

Minnesota beat the Penguins (11-3), who own the NHL's best record, despite being outshot 35-15. The Wild (5-9) are 3-0 against Eastern Conference opponents.

Pascal Dupuis celebrates his first-period goal with Matt Cooke
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Driving the Net
The Penguins scored one time on this night, but it was certainly not for a lack of effort. Pittsburgh was very effective all night taking the puck right to the Minnesota net, particularly Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby. Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom was the only reason the score ended 2-1 in favor of Minnesota and not the lopsided Penguins’ victory it could have been.

What Could Have Gone Better: Defensive Zone Coverage
Rarely was Minnesota in the Penguins’ defensive end, particularly the first two periods. The Wild made their limited chances count as Kyle Brodziak was wide open to poke home the rebound of a Chuck Kobasew shot and Eric Belanger found himself uncovered 15 feet from Fleury when he scored the eventual game-winner with less than a second remaining in the first period.
The score sheet indicates Craig Adams received the second assist when Pascal Dupuis scored the Penguins’ opening goal. However, it was the clean faceoff win by Adams to Martin Skoula at the left point that got the whole play started. Skoula and Dupuis almost had the easy work as the play developed quickly.

Adams was all over the ice for the Penguins, firing four shots at Niklas Backstrom and creating offense with his tenacious forechecking. In addition to his faceoff win that set up the first goal, Adams was 6-3 on draws overall.
Pittsburgh gives up the opening score for the second-consecutive night as a shot from the point by Chuck Kobasew glances off the blocker of Marc-Andre Fleury and lands on the ice to his left, where Kyle Brodziak is there to sweep it into the back of the cage. Minnesota 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Former Wild Pascal Dupuis got Pittsburgh on the board 14:48 in the first period when he slid to an opening in the high slot and one-timed a pass from Martin Skoula on the ice past Niklas Backstrom to knot the score. Pittsburgh 1, Minnesota 1.

Minnesota took the lead into the opening intermission by striking with less than a second remaining in the period. Martin Havlat took a pass in the corner and found an open Eric Belanger, who beat Fleury with a high wrist shot. Minnesota 2, Pittsburgh 1.
Jordan Staal failed to record a point against the Wild, but had one of his best overall games of the season creating chances offensively. Staal regularly used his 6-foot-4 frame to shield defenders and attack the net. He recorded three shots on goal and had three hits as his 24:11 led all Penguin forwards. Staal saw action on the half-wall with the first power-play unit when Sidney Crosby was in the box during the late second/early third period power play.

Pascal Dupuis spent four full seasons and parts of two others with the Wild from 2000-2007. In only his second game against his original team, Dupuis showed the Wild what he can provide when at the top of his game. Using his blazing speed, Dupuis scored the Penguins’ lone tally, recorded a team-high five shots on goal and blocked three shots. 

Sidney Crosby electrified the home crowd with 3:22 remaining in the second period when he dropped the gloves in front of the Minnesota net with defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Crosby got the better of the scrum, eliciting chants of “Crosby, Crosby” from the Mellon Arena faithful. Both players received seven minutes in penalties for their actions.

Martin Skoula continued his steady play in the absence of Sergei Gonchar. Skoula made a nifty pass to Dupuis in the slot to set up the Penguins’ only goal. That assist gave him a two-game assist streak. Skoula was a plus-1 on the night, giving him a plus-3 rating in five games.
> Scoring Summary:
MIN, K. Brodziak (2), 12:11 1st period: Wild 1, Penguins 0
PIT, P. Dupuis (2), 14:48 1st period: Penguins 1, Wild 1
MIN, E. Belanger (4), 19:59 1st period: Wild 2, Penguins 1

> The Penguins finished the month of October 11-3 setting a team record for victories in the season’s opening month.

> The 11 wins by the Penguins in October ties the league record for most wins in the first month of the season. The previous team to accomplish this: New York Islanders in 1982; the New York Rangers in 1990; and the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 and 2005. Both the Islanders and 2001 Red Wing team went on to win the Stanley Cup.

> The Penguins’ 11-3 record through 14 games is the second-best start in team history behind only the 12-1-1 start in 1994-95.

> Pittsburgh returns to action again on Tuesday night when they return to the road to face the Anaheim Ducks for a 10:00 p.m. start local time. A Penguins win on Tuesday night would equal the NHL record for most road victories at the beginning of a season with seven. The record was previously set by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1940, the Philadelphia Flyers in 1985 and the Detroit Red Wings in 2005.

> Pittsburgh is now 2-2 in the second half of back-to-back contests.

> The Penguins are now 29-6-4 in the regular season since head coach Dan Bylsma took over. They have a record of 15-4-1 at Mellon Arena.

> Sidney Crosby saw his season-high points streak stopped at six games. He had 11 points (5G-6A) during the streak.

> Alex Goligoski also had his point streak come to an end at a career-high seven games. During the stretch Goligoski recorded eight points (4G-4A).

> Bill Guerin played in his 1,199th career game against the Blue Jackets. His next game at Anaheim against the Ducks on Tuesday night will be the 1,200th of his careers.

> Earlier in the day Pittsburgh re-assigned forward Mark Letestu to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Letestu was recalled to Pittsburgh on Friday but did not dress for a game.
“I think we can keep our heads up after this one … if we outshoot a team 35-15 every game I like our chances.”
- Sidney Crosby


Author: Jason Seidling

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