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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Penguins 2

Eric Staal's three-point night lifts Minnesota to victory over defending Stanley Cup champions

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Recap: MIN 4, PIT 2

Wild pot four behind Dubnyk's 39 saves for 4-2 win

The Wild peppered 44 shots on goal and converted four, while Devan Dubnyk made 39 saves to give Minnesota a big 4-2 win against the Penguins

  • 03:43 •

Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh:

1. Eric Staal had a big night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While that may be news to Wild fans, it's certainly not to those who have watched Staal in the Eastern Conference over the years. 

Staal had a goal and two assists Thursday and now has 51 points, including 22 goals, in 50 career games versus the Pens.

Video: Eric Staal postgame at Pittsburgh 

Staal's goal in the third period, his fifth in 12 games to start the season, came after nice shifts by Ryan Suter and Charlie Coyle. Extra effort by the latter got the puck deep where Staal and the forecheck went to work. 

Staal's pressure forced a turnover in front of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who couldn't get over in time to stop Staal's backhander into the net. The goal, 2:56 into the third period, gave the Wild its first lead of the game at 3-2.

Video: MIN@PIT: Staal slams home rebound to take the lead

After a sluggish start to the game, the Staal-Coyle-Nino Niederreiter line was fantastic over the final 45 minutes, combining for three goals and four assists. Coyle and Niederreiter were each a plus-2 while Staal was a plus-3.

"I think collectively, [we were] just a touch rusty after not playing in a long time," Staal said. "But I knew they were feeling really good about their game, we gave them a couple looks early and [Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk] made some good saves, and then felt like we got our game going, did the right things with the puck and spent a lot of time in their end and scored some timely goals, so it was a good effort and hopefully we can keep that up in Philly."

2. The Wild (7-4-1) overcame early rust to get out of the first period tied at one.

After playing just once in eight days, Minnesota looked it early in the game. Sidney Crosby, perhaps the best player in the world, was gifted the puck after a turnover and was all alone in front of Devan Dubnyk, who was able to make a save on Crosby's backhander.

"Any time Sid wants to backhand one into my chest, I'm fine with that," Dubnyk said. "His backhand is as hard as many forehands. Obviously not the guy you want to see standing in front of you that early in the game."

On the very next shift, the Wild turned it over again, sending Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel in on a 2-on-1 break. Kessel fed Malkin, who ripped a shot off the post. 

"They came out real hard," Dubnyk said. "Sometimes you need a couple of bounces to get going. We used that."

Later in the period, Mikko Koivu was slow off the ice on a line change and the referees whistled the Wild for too many men on the ice. Less than a minute in, Crosby redirected a pass by Kessel past Dubnyk and the home club (9-3-2) had a 1-0 lead.

"We started throwing the puck away and I thought, 'Uh oh, we're gonna get killed,'" said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "But after that, once we settled down, a lot of good things happened. I thought we competed really hard."

The Wild recovered nicely from that point, getting a power play of its own late in the period when Pittsburgh's Trevor Daley cleared a puck into the stands. Late in the power play, Suter's ripper from the point was tipped by Coyle past Fleury, tying the score at 1-1.

"It was a goal we definitely will take," Coyle said. "Already down a goal, it's nice to go into that intermission tied. It wasn't our best period by any means, and we definitely picked it up after that."

Video: MIN@PIT: Coyle nets PPG with wicked redirection

After an agonizingly slow start to the frame, Minnesota even had a 15-10 edge in shots and had 13 hits, including three by rookie Joel Eriksson Ek.

3. Just before the game's halfway point, Niederreiter scored one of the prettier goals you'll see.

The Wild worked a nice cycle in the right corner (something it worked on feverishly in practice earlier in the week), with Suter and Coyle playing starring roles. Coyle had the puck knocked out of his skates in the right corner, but it went to Eric Staal, who wheeled out of the corner and put a pass right on the tape of Niederreiter between the circle and the blue paint. 

With the puck on his backhand, Niederreiter quickly shifted to the forehand and flipped the puck under the crossbar for his third goal. 

Video: MIN@PIT: Niederreiter uses quick hands, roofs puck

The goal was a big one for Minnesota, which had surrendered the lead less than two minutes earlier on another power play goal by Patric Hornqvist.

Niederreiter's tally knotted the game at 2, which is the way the second period ended. But the deadlock didn't last, and the Wild took control of the game in the third frame with two unanswered goals.

"You know the stats. Going in behind is usually not a good sign," Boudreau said. "It's very difficult to win coming from behind in the third period. So it was a big goal and we needed it."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame at Pittsburgh

Loose Pucks

• Devan Dubnyk was fantastic again, making 39 saves.

• The Wild's 44 shots on goal were a new season high. It was the first time since Feb. 9 that Minnesota reached the 40-shot plateau.

• Staal's two-assist night was his first in a Wild uniform and 80th of his NHL career.

Jason Pominville scored into the empty net with 29.9 seconds remaining, his third goal of the year.

• Wild forward Zack Mitchell made his NHL debut, getting 9:17 of ice time and registering three hits and a blocked shot.

• Wild forward Erik Haula returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a foot injury.

• Boudreau improved to 15-5-4 all-time against the Penguins.

• Attendance: 18,458

He Said It

"They became monsters." -- Wild coach Bruce Boudreau on the Niederreiter-Staal-Coyle line

They Said It

"If you're able to hem them in their zone, you wear them down and they don't have as much speed. They were good at getting out of their quick and getting us on our heels a bit." -- Penguins forward Sidney Crosby

Dan's Three Stars

* Eric Staal

** Devan Dubnyk

*** Ryan Suter

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