Penguins don't go down without a fight (and it involves Crosby)
November 1, 2009 9:00 AM
Sidney Crosby goes airborne as Minnesota's Greg Zanon ducks under him in the game last night at Mellon Arena -- a rare Penguins loss despite the fact that they gave up just 13 shots to the Wild.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Lose a game, any game, and there are things a team would like to change.
It stands to reason, then, that the Penguins would like to have back their 0-for-3 performance on the power play last night.
They would like to do something about that game-deciding goal they allowed with six-tenths of a second left in the first period, too.
Get beyond that, though, and there was not a whole lot about their 2-1 loss against Minnesota at Mellon Arena that they would like to do over.
"We play every game that way," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, "and we'll like the result."
The Penguins have liked the outcome a lot during the first four-plus weeks of the regular season. They finished October 11-3, and if they had beaten the Wild, would have become the first team in NHL history to win an even dozen then.
As it is, they will have to settle for being one of five -- the others are the 1982-83 New York Islanders, the 1990-91 New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings of 2001-02 and 2005-06 -- to ring up 11 in October.
While the Penguins were missing out on a milestone victory, the Wild was earning one. One Minnesota surely wishes would have come weeks ago.
This was the first time the Wild has won in nine tries on the road this season.
The Penguins were aware of Minnesota's struggles in away games, of course, but did not play like a team that assumed two points were automatic.
They outhit and outworked Minnesota for lengthy stretches, but managed to put only one of 35 shots past goalie Niklas Backstrom.
"He was a difference-maker tonight," right winger Bill Guerin said. "He played really well."
Backstrom did not have much choice, given the Penguins' 35-15 edge in shots.
"You definitely have to give the credit to Backstrom in this one," Wild coach Todd Richards said. "He made some huge saves for us, and, when you are where we are in the standings, that is what you need."
Kyle Brodziak gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at 12:11 of the opening period and, after Pascal Dupuis countered for the Penguins at 14:48, Eric Belanger got the winner with less than a second to go before the first intermission, as he beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the right side.
The Penguins would go on to launch 19 more shots at Backstrom, but he turned them all aside. The ones that made it past his teammates in the first place, anyway.
"Their goaltender played extremely well, and they blocked a lot of shots," Bylsma said.
"We had quality [offensive-] zone time. We had shots to the net.
"But they had two and three guys blocking shots. Pucks were sticking under their bodies. They were getting slashed and whacked, and they battled pretty hard for that."
So did Bylsma's players, and Sidney Crosby resorted to the nuclear option, fighting, for the fourth time in his NHL career to culminate a run-in with Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky at 16:38 of the second.
"That was pretty cool, to see Sid go at it," Fleury said.
For Crosby, the moments before they dropped their gloves and started to trade punches -- actually, Crosby threw the overwhelming majority, while Zidlicky seemed content to serve as recipient -- brought some unpleasant memories of a bygone injury percolating to the surface.
"Ever since I went into the boards with my ankle ... he took my feet out like that," Crosby said. "I don't like that. It's a bad feeling.
"When that happened, I think it just kind of ticked me off a bit and I kind of went after him a bit. That's not something I want to make a habit of, but I don't like getting tripped up going into the boards like that. It's pretty dangerous.
"I don't know if he dropped his gloves first. We were kind of pushing each other at the start, but I was a little ticked off at that whole sequence."
He and his teammates were not thrilled about the outcome, either, but realize that playing well does not always translate to a victory.
And, as they were reminded by a 4-3 shootout victory in Columbus the previous night, it also is possible to win despite playing fewer than 60 minutes of stellar hockey.