Wild continues dominance of Penguins
Penguins forward Jordan Staal is slow to recover to his feet after a collison with Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner.
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This is developing into one of life's great unwavering truths.
Not quite as certain as death and taxes -- maybe -- but not far from it, either.
Bring the Minnesota Wild to this town, and it is pretty much a lock that it will leave with a couple of points.
Minnesota's 4-0 victory against the Penguins Saturday night at Consol Energy Center ran its alltime record here to 6-1, with the lone defeat coming in the Wild's first visit. That was Feb. 14, 2001, when the Penguins' lineup was built around Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, not Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Lemieux and Jagr left the depth chart long ago, of course, and Crosby is going to be off it for at least a little while, too.
He missed his second game in a row because of a concussion. And while there is no target date for his return, given that the Penguins have scored one goal in the two games he has missed, right this minute probably wouldn't be too soon.
Although the Penguins own one of the NHL's most prolific offenses, they aren't nearly as menacing when Crosby is in street clothes. He has scored or assisted on 66 of their 136 goals; no teammate has been in on more than 36.
"Obviously, we miss him," left winger Pascal Dupuis said. "But that's not an excuse. Some guys have to step it up."
The Penguins not only have a knack for allowing the Wild to do a passable impersonation of the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens -- a team that lost just eight games and earned a record 132 points -- but for turning goalie Jose Theodore into the stunt double for Ken Dryden, the fabled goalie on that club.
Theodore stopped 26 shots Saturday night to record his fourth shutout against the Penguins and raise his career record against them to 19-4-3. Theodore has had a good career, but might be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he faced the Penguins more often.
"It's just one of those things," he said.
"There are obviously buildings and teams [where] you have more success."
And teams against which you have almost none. Like the Penguins against Minnesota.
The loss dropped the Penguins (26-13-4) into second place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Philadelphia.
Left winger Matt Cooke, who missed their 2-1 shootout loss in Montreal Thursday night because of a family illness, returned to the lineup and assumed a place alongside Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal on the No. 1 line.
The Penguins got a scare 8 1/2 minutes into the first period, when defenseman Clayton Stoner drove his right knee into the inside of Staal's right knee at the same time he was putting his shoulder into Staal's chest.
Staal, playing in just his fourth game of the season after recovering from a foot infection and broken hand, grimaced and was down on the ice in obvious discomfort, but returned to the bench under his own power and did not miss a shift.
"It just scared me a little bit," Staal said. "It was more of a stinger, then it kind of died down. I was pretty happy about that."
That wave of relief he experienced might have been the final time a Penguin felt good all evening.
Minnesota got the only goal it needed at 13:23 of the opening period, when Mikko Koivu's shot from above the left dot caromed off teammate Chuck Kobasew in front of the net and fluttered over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's glove, and Martin Havlat made it 2-0 at 18:06 by swatting a rebound between Fleury's legs from the right side of the crease.
After being consistently bogged down in the neutral zone for most of the first two periods -- "They did a good job and played well there," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We did not." -- the Penguins controlled play during the early part of the third.
They couldn't manufacture a goal, though, and Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck put the game out of reach by throwing a shot over Fleury's glove from inside the right dot at 6:20. Kyle Brodziak rubbed it in with an empty-netter at 17:01.
And so the Penguins absorbed a defeat that presumably was tougher to accept than it was to explain.
"We just didn't execute," defenseman Kris Letang said. "We played poorly in the neutral zone and our [defensive] zone. "It's no surprise we came out with a loss."
Apparently, it never should be when the Wild wins here.
First Published January 9, 2011 12:00 am