By virtue of the Bruins winning earlier in the day, the Pittsburgh Penguins are locked into the number two seed in the East. After their last game on Thursday, Finnish players Jussi Jokinen (wrist/hand) and Olli Maatta (undisclosed upper body) were knocked out for this game, putting the team even more short-handed than usual.
It all added up to a team that truly went through the motions against the Minnesota Wild, who scored 1:42 into the first period and never looked back against the Pens.
"They scored on kind of a weird play two minutes in," Matt Niskanen said. "So it doesn't start well, and things snowballed for us."
When the first period ended, it was 3-0 Wild, including a couple of pretty weak goals on backup Jeff Zatkoff. If the Penguins didn't again have to play Sunday against Colorado, they probably would have given him a mercy pulling by that point, but there's no need to play Marc-Andre Fleury in back-to-back days this time of year, so Zatkoff had to weather the storm.
He was able to largely do that, playing better for the rest of the game, but by that point the damage was done and it didn't help that his teammates didn't wake up.
"We have to find a way to be more consistent, to be better," Niskanen said.
He wasn't kidding there, the Pens only had 20 shots in the entire game on old friend Ilya Bryzgalov, including just 12 in the final 40 minutes
Pittsburgh didn't block as many shots as they usually do (just 10), only won 43% of the face-offs and saw Minnesota have a high 10 official takeaways from them. It was pretty easy to tell who this game meant something to, and it wasn't the boys in white.
The schedule also hasn't been kind- the Pens haven't had consecutive days off since they were off three days in a row from March 13-15th. In the 23 days period from March 15th and that will end Sunday on April 6th, Pittsburgh will play 14 games. In this stretch they've seen Jokinen, Maatta, Evgeni Malkin, Marcel Goc and Joe Vitale all go down with injuries. Hopefully all will be back sooner than later, but the toll has been taken.
The Pens are off Monday and Tuesday once they finish this road trip up, and the rest before the playoffs will be necessary. But, if Saturday night was any indication, it appears the team has taken it in their own hands to start resting up a little early.