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Pens fall to Wild 4-3 as powerless play comes up empty on six chances

[SBN Wild Blog - Hockey Wilderness]

Despite outshooting the Wild 38 to 24, the Penguins just couldn't get the best of Niklas Backstrom.  Guess his abysmal outing against the Blackhawks Saturday night posed as some sort of wake-up call.  Sure, Crosby had a point in every Pittsburgh goal, but Minnesota's Guillaume Latendresse one-upped The Kid with a solid four-point night of his own.  And hey, props to former Wild grinder Pascal Dupuis and his three points as well.  His second period goal to put the Pens ahead 2-1 was worthy of sniper status.

But perhaps the real story of the game was the PP.  Heading into this game the Pens were ranked 29th overall with the man advantage, sliding up only one slot over the past few weeks.  The PP went a pathetic 0-for-6, including one of those opportunities with the 5-on-3 advantage that ultimately proved fruitless.  Even Minnesota struggled on the PP, one of which included some extra time when Sergei Gonchar nominated himself for an extended stay in the penalty box after an interference call on Cal Clutterbuck.  Bad timing no doubt, not only because the Pens were down by one, but more so because by the end of the penalty it would leave the Pens little time to work with in an effort to try and tie it back up.

Was Marc-Andre Fleury off his game, or did bad bounces get the best of him?  With all of today's talk focused around a Brent Johnson injury, an accident prone MAF (he clumsily slammed into a door and cut his arm) and a John Curry call up, it seemed to me that Fleury just didn't seem settled at all.  Eric Belanger's goal in the first was one of those puck-on-end, bouncing-all-over-the-ice sort of shots that would make it difficult for any goaltender to stop.  The puck hit Fleury, but the deflection wasn't enough to send it off the mark.

A Gonchar miscue in the Minnesota end led to a dangerous 3-on-1 led by Martin Havlat.  He promptly buried a pass from Latendresse for Minnesota's second goal on the night.  Even Clutterbuck's late second period goal was a bit dicey.  But hey, no one ever said every goal had to be pretty.  The Wild still found a way to get the job done and beat Fleury, flashy plays or not.

As far as what we can take from this game, I think we're seeing something good happening out there with the first line.  Guerin and Sid have always had the chemistry, but Dupuis showed tonight that he has the legs to get open and receive a pass.  It may not be one of those instances where all he has to do is keep his stick down, but I think after tonight the Pens will continue to work with the Dupuis-Crosby-Guerin combo.

The Pens now head out to the west coast for a date with Calgary Wednesday night.  Brace yourself for some late starts if you're on the east coast.