The Pittsburgh Penguins rolled into St. Paul tonight and took advantage of an abbreviated Minnesota Wild lineup to win their 1st of a 4-game road trip by a score of 4-2. The Wild, who were missing first line forwards Marian Gaborik, Pavol Dimitra and #1 goalie Niklas Backstrom to groin injuries, lost their 4th consecutive game. It was also their first loss at home for the Wild this season after going 4-0-0 prior to tonight.
With the NHL’s unbalanced schedule, this was the first time in their short careers that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have played in front of fans in the NHL’s Northwest Division. Malkin and Crosby impressed the crowd as they played together again on the first line and dominated the ailing Wild, putting up 7-points between them. The game started with the usual first period slumber party by the young Penguins, who were outshot 10-6 in the starting frame. Backup goaltender Dany Sabourin took the start and looked very good in net for the Penguins.
The Penguins came alive in the second period on an even strength wrap-around goal by Evgeni Malkin at 3:30 that somehow found its way between Wild tender Josh Harting’s skate and the goal post. The play was created by Sidney Crosby who was making a move to the front of the net while being ridden by a Wild defenseman. When the puck came off Crosby’s stick, Malkin grabbed it and shoved it around to the other side of the goal mouth and into the net. Ryan Malone picked up an assist on the play. Less than 3 minutes later, the Wild evened the game at 1 apiece on an even strength goal by Stephane Veilleux from Radivojevic and Koivu. But the tie was short-lived as Malkin struck again on a rebound just 15 seconds later with a diving shot that beat Harting. The goal, Malkin’s 2nd of the night, put the Penguins ahead by a score of 2-1 and was assisted again by Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone. The Penguins outshot the Wild 12-8 in the second.
In the third period, the Wild evened it up at 6:26 on an even strength tally by Brian Rolston, from Koivu and Burns. The Wild took advantage of a turnover by Eric Christensen in the neutral zone, and Rolston capitalized on a juicy rebound slapping it into a gaping net as Sabu tried to move back across the goalmouth. However, the Penguins took the lead for good with a go-ahead power play goal by Petr Sykora on a beautiful set play by Sidney Crosby and Sergei Gonchar at 10:05. At 14:29, Sidney Crosby scored an even strength insurance marker on a breakaway play during a Wild line change. The play resulted from a superb up ice pass by Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin to hit Crosby breaking into the Wild defensive zone. Crosby skated in on goal and let a quick release that rocketed through the 5-hole of Harting.
The game was a bonanza for the top line of Crosby, Malkin and Malone. Crosby finished the night with 4-points (1G, 3A), his 8th career 4-point game, and was named the games 1st star. It was also his 10th consecutive game of the season with at least a point, tying his career record, and tonight’s production elevated him to 4th in the NHL in scoring with 17-points, just 4-points behind the leader Henrik Zetterburg. Malkin finished with 3-points (2G, 1A) and was named the games 3rd star. Malkin now has 6-points (3G, 3A) in his last 3 games. He looked extremely confident out there tonight and smiled more in tonight’s game than I have ever seen. Malone and Gonchar each picked up 2-points in assists. Goaltender Dany Sabourin played a very solid game with 28 saves on 30 shots, and may have earned a start in Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
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The Penguins continue their 4-game road trip with a game against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, 1 Nov 07, at 9PM eastern, in what promises to be a much more challenging game for the Penguins.