Depleted Penguins knock off Wild, run home winning streak to nine
The exhausted Penguins had every reason to fold.
Instead, they produced the moment of their young season.
With Minnesota mounting a comeback in the third period at Consol Energy Center against a fatiguing group, the Penguins killed a two-man advantage for almost two minutes — and even produced a dramatic goal of their own — in a 5-2 victory over the Wild for their sixth straight win.
Looking comfortably ahead with a 4-0 advantage in the second period, the Penguins allowed the Wild to slide back into the game, and early in the third period at 4-2.
Then defenseman Olli Maatta and right wing Craig Adams were called for penalties within 14 seconds of each other, giving the Wild a two-man advantage for 1:46.
“That was a big deal,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen, who continued his strong play by producing a goal and an assist in 23:23 of action. “If they score there, it's a different game. Things get hairy.”
With two of their best penalty killers in the penalty box, the Penguins went to work. Robert Bortuzzo was the only defenseman on the ice for more than a minute, but he protected goaltender Jeff Zatkoff in front of the net.
“It felt like Borts was out there forever,” Zatkoff said. “The guys in front of me were unbelievable.”
Zach Sill and Pascal Dupuis also made significant plays to protect their goaltender.
Zatkoff did his share of fine work, too.
In the first minute of the kill, Zatkoff stoned Minnesota star Zach Parise twice. Parise also missed the net on another opportunity.
“It was a big point in the game,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
When the Penguins finally had killed the first penalty, much of the Consol Energy Center crowd was on its feet. That didn't change when Maatta stepped out of the penalty box and found himself on a breakaway, where he was pulled down and given a penalty shot.
Maatta beat goaltender Niklas Backstrom with a shot to the five-hole. It gave Maatta his third goal of the season and his second point of the night.
“I tried a move in practice three times, and that's the only move I've got,” Maatta said.
Whatever moves Maatta has are good enough for the Penguins. The 19-year-old continued his precocious play, which didn't surprise Bylsma, who is a believer in the rookie.
“Probably as early as February,” Bylsma said, “other teams' scouts were talking about Olli, saying that maybe he was ready for the NHL.”
Chris Kunitz scored a pair of goals for the Penguins to take over the team lead with 20, and Brandon Sutter also scored. Sidney Crosby recorded two assists to increase his league-leading point total to 51.
Despite playing without 40 percent of their regular lineup and with their backup goaltender, the Penguins earned their ninth straight home win and their sixth straight win overall. They lead the Washington Capitals by 14 points in the Metropolitan Division.
Adams said it was “very frustrating” being in the penalty box during such a crucial kill.
Once again, though, the young guys were up to the task.
The Penguins — no matter which players occupy the uniforms — are 16-3 at home and atop the Eastern Conference by five points over the Boston Bruins.
“Everyone got the job done,” Sill said. “The stars scored most of the goals, and the rest of us went to work.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Basketball, soccer star Strom named Friend of Steel Valley
- Luncheon lauds supporters of McKeesport Hospital Foundation Invitational
- Manor police arrest alleged getaway driver
- Ford City Council’s quiet on debt frustrates residents
- Rossi: Steelers should corner the market at NFL Draft
- Plum officials: District won’t inhibit ‘constitutionally protected speech’
- Penguins’ Pouliot learns from rookie season
- Latrobe baseball routs Connellsville to move closer to WPIAL playoff berth
- Man found dead in Lower Burrell
- Arnold, New Kensington drug busts net 2 arrests, heroin, cocaine, cash
- Belle Vernon Area education boss presents wish list to school board