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  • Wild downs defending champ Penguins 4-2 to open road trip


    It’s been four long days since the Wild last played a game. In the mean time, the Wild were able to practice and get healthy before they took on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Minnesota has struggled the last couple years in Pittsburgh. A 7-2 loss two seasons ago was the reason Chuck Fletcher made the trade for Devan Dubnyk to play against the Buffalo Sabres two days later.

    Another player the Wild has acquired, NHL vet Eric Staal, has looked like a rejuvenated player this late in his career. Flanked by Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter, that line was monstrous as they took it to the Penguins.

    The first period got off to a rough start as the Penguins blitzed the Wild, trying to take advantage of the Wild’s long layoff. Three early shots and a post as the Penguins came perilously close to getting an early lead. Pittsburgh would get that early lead on the power play. Sidney Crosby, who’s been on fire to start the season, deflected a shot past Dubnyk just inside the post. Minnesota settled down as they started pushing into the Pittsburgh end, but most shots were from the outside and mostly low danger that Marc-Andre Fleury had no trouble stopping.

    A puck-over-the-glass delay of game penalty was when the tide turned in the game. Minnesota peppered the net and took the lead in shots on goal in the period. Charlie Coyle got ahold of one is it came in on-net. Coyle was able to tip the puck past Fleury to tie the game at one.

    The Wild had run into some penalty trouble in the middle stanza. Devan Dubnyk was whistled for playing the puck in the restricted zone. Goalies have adapted well to the much-maligned trapezoid, but Dubnyk was hurried by a Penguin forechecker, and played the puck a hair too early. To add insult to injury, Patrick Hornqvist would score on the ensuing power play. The Wild’s PK had some chinks in its armor tonight. Giving up two power play goals will make it hard to win.

    Nino Niederreiter would have something to say about it. With Charlie Coyle grinding in the corner, the puck squirted out to Staal, who found Niederreiter in the slot for an absolute snipe of a shot over the right shoulder of Fleury. Minnesota got an extended two-man advantage, but couldn’t cash in. The Wild would get really close a couple more times and Dubnyk had to be solid. The Wild‘s penalty kill, which showed some vulnerability was able to kill a Joel Eriksson Ek penalty in the second, and a Niederreiter penalty midway through the third to maintain a lead given to them by Eric Staal.

    At 2:56 of the third period, Minnesota was able to get its first lead of the game. Coyle nearly turned the puck over just inside the Pittsburgh blue line. After he battled to regain control of the puck, he dumped the puck in where Niederreiter and Staal were able to cut the puck off behind the net. The puck would get knocked off the stick of a Penguins defenseman right to Coyle in the left circle. Coyle’s shot was initially stopped, but Staal, coming from behind the net, gathered the rebound and poked it five-hole for the lead. Dubnyk was hold down the fort and Jason Pominville, using his best pitching wedge, lobbed a puck down the ice into the empty net for sign and seal the game for Minnesota.

    Erik Haula made his return to the lineup, which Bruce Boudreau said helped give him so many options in match-ups and on the PK. Mike Reilly was up and was very active offensively with two shots on goal officially, and was constantly seen jumping into the rush up ice. Ryan Suter, Pominville, and Staal were tied for the team lead with 6 shots on goal. Staal had a goal and two assists for a three point night. Coyle and Niederreiter each had a goal and an assist. Suter lead the team with 31:17 of Time on Ice. Mikael Granlund had a point-blank chance with an open net to shoot at but was handcuffed with the puck getting too inside on him. Otherwise, he was very good in the game, battling in the corners, and making good, creative passes.

    It was a big win for the Wild on the road, and one that was an exciting game in which both teams combined for 85 shots. It’s huge to get back in the win column after a weird scheduling anomaly where the Wild only played one game in 9 days. Minnesota will head across the state of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia for a match-up against the Flyers.

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