[Wild vs Penguins coverage - SB Nation blog Hockey Wilderness]
You win some, you lose some in an 82 game season. A lot of crazy things tend to happen when the year's that long. You know, like out-shooting a road team by a margain of almost 3-1, playing almost the entire game in their zone, out-hit them, but come up emptyhanded. That's the Penguins story tonight, just couldn't catch a lucky bounce or get a small break to result in a win.
- For Minnesota not to have been laughed out of town Nicklas Backstrom (no not THAT one) had to be terrific. He was, recording 34 saves on 35 shots. Backstrom looked very poised, very confident in his crease and proved too tough for Pittsburgh to crack.
- The Pens defense actually blocked the same number of shots (15) that the Wild players got through to Marc-Andre Fleury. Several of those shots were at the blueline or behind it. Fleury must have great costume ideas, he surely had a lot of time to not worry about stopping pucks tonight. He deserved a better fate in terms of taking the loss, but his counter-part put on a show at the other end and Fleury didn't even get the chance really to do his part, since the Pens controlled so much of the action.
- Sidney Crosby's string of not taking crap has carried over. After Marek Zidlicky planted Crosby awkwardly into the boards, Sid gave him a little slash. Zidlicky returned the stickwork, tensions were high and gloves were dropped. Nice fight win by Crosby landing a few rights and pulling the jersey over Zidlicky's head.
- At the same time, the Pens were of course without the services of the injured Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar. With Crosby in the box, the not so dreaded power-play unit was Bill Guerin-Jordan Staal-Chris Kunitz. That hurt not having #87 out there, give him one more chance with the man advantage and that's possibly a couple of chances for him to make a play. But it's impossible to make a play when you're penalized, as was the case.
- 8 hits by Brooks Orpik; he was handed out even more free candy to Wild players than you probably did to neighborhood children tonight.
- The Penguins have been able to run a couple of set-plays off of faceoff wins (thanks to more wins in the circles) and they got their only goal on it. Credit Craig Adams on the win and a nice pass made by Martin Skoula to Pascal Dupuis who ripped it home.
- Dupuis, by the way, had a game high five shots on goal and played pretty well against his old team. Pens fans have no problem piling on the guy, so I'll use this space to give him some props.
- Petr Sykora had a very quiet night in his Pittsburgh return. He was credited with one shot on goal in just 13:59 played and the only time he stood out was when Kris Letang shouldered him post-whistle.
- Seen enough of Chris Bourque? Dan Bylsma may have, he only gave Ray's kid two shifts in the third period. That was a team low (except for Eric Godard, who didn't get any ice-time at all).
- I watch hockey almost every night with Center Ice, I play in a couple pools, I follow a wide variety of people on twitter, I consider myself realtively plugged in. But these Western Conference teams always seem to have one guy I've never heard of and one guy I didn't think was still in the league. Tonight's winners were John Scott and Owen Nolan, respectively.
This was the last of 3 games in 4 nights, but neither focus nor effort was the issue. Backstrom was. He was outstanding and the Pens couldn't find a way to scratch and claw enough to beat him more than once. Now we have a few days to re-charge the batteries before a game against each California team on the west coast next week (starting with old friend Ryan Whitney and Anaheim on Tuesday).