Sidney Crosby came back from an abdominal surgery he suffered over two months ago and didn't miss a beat as he scored a goal and three assists in the Penguins 7 - 3 rout of the Minnesota Wild at the PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night. Kris Letang picked up his 400th NHL assist which makes him the only Penguins defenseman in franchise history to achieve that honor. This game could shred the Wild’s hopes with a record of 20 - 20 - 6 as they are seven points out of a playoff spot and tied for last place in the Central Division with the Chicago Blackhawks. This loss also chalks up four straight losses for Minnesota and for Pittsburgh, they make it four in a row. The Penguins record of 29 - 12 - 5 with 63 points are just behind the Washington Capitals with 67 points. It will be a battle between the Capitals and Penguins for the Metropolitan Division lead as we approach the end of the season.
The game would begin with some confusion, Greg Pateryn was a scratch for the game but he was suited up to play, he was removed from the bench leaving the Wild with only five defenseman. Ryan Donato was added making thirteen forwards which did not benefit the Wild one bit. The first seven minutes, Tristan Jarry and Devin Dubnyk playing solid in front of their nets but things quickly turned around. The Wild have allowed a power-play goal in their last six games, you would hope they would stay out of the penalty box but they continue to make this mistake. Mathew Dumba committed a high sticking penalty on Zach Aston-Reese and wouldn’t you know it the Penguins are up 1 - 0. Crosby created the play to Bryan Rust who made a smooth cross-crease pass to Evgeni Malkin for the goal. A few minutes later, Kevin Fiala was called for holding but the weakened defense and Dubnyk kept it a one goal margin giving the Wild a sigh of relief. With under three minutes left, the Penguins scored again as Jared McCann tapped it home, assisted John Marino and Dominik Simon.
The second period began flat but Jarry would make sure the shutout would last as he rejected Victor Rask on back-to-back shots. Minutes later, Malkin out skated Mikko Koivu as he picked up the loose puck to deliver a no-look pass to Rust for the 3 - 0 Penguins lead. To the Wild’s displeasure, Mats Zuccarello commited a high-sticking penalty on Brandon Tanev and back to the power play went Pittsburgh. As they have been struggling on the penalty kill, the Wild could not contain the explosive Penguins offense as Malkin scored his second of the game making it 4 - 0. The goal was assisted by Crosby and Letang, his 400th career assist. The Wild would show they had a little bit of fight left in them as Fiala delivered the cross-crease pass to Zach Parise who shot it past Jarry to cut the deficit to three.
Despite the Wild trailing early in the third, Marcus Foligno scored a backhand forehand breakaway that went around a sprawling Jarry. The Wild narrowed the game to 4 - 2 as Joel Eriksson EK and Luke Kunin got the assists. The two goal lead for the Penguins was just a mirage, as you guessed it, Crosby scored backhand through Dubnyk’s five-hole retaking the three goal lead. This goal was designed by McCann’s amazing off-balance pass as he was tripped by Koivu. Forty one seconds later, Crosby would pick up his third assist of the game as Simon scored blocker side making it a blowout. Dubnyk had no chance as Alex Galchenyuk blasted a one-timer assisted by Patric Hornqvist and Andrew Agozzino, Minnesota fans could only hope this game would magically end right now as the Penguins had a dominant 7 - 2 lead. With the game all but done, the Wild were a no-show in Pittsburgh with the 7 - 3 loss as Parise scored his second of the night with 10.5 seconds left.
This game was a terrible showing by the Wild players, but on a positive note, if you had Parise on your Fantasy Team you scored well as he got two. There have been many NHL coaches fired already this season, many wouldn't be surprised if Bruce Boudreau is next in line as the Wild look like they're going to miss the playoffs back-to-back years. Is Devan Dubnyk past his prime? Will Mathew Dumba continue being a productive defenseman? Will they trade stars like Ryan Suter, Zach Parise or Jason Zucker at the trade deadline? If the Wild can't fix their penalty kill that's all you need to know as to why Boudreau should be fired at the end of the season. As for the Penguins, the team was winning without Crosby and with the all-time great returning, this team is looking like a Stanley Cup contender. Beware Capitals! The Penguins will be facing the Boston Bruins two times in the following four days, one will wonder if Tuukka Rask will return from his concussion from last night's Bruins - Blue Jackets game. This would be a great opportunity for the Pittsburgh Penguins to surpass the Boston Bruins for the second best record in the Eastern Conference.