All Penned up: Lots of shots, not enough goals for Wild
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St. Paul, Minn. - Playing a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has been shorthanded for some time, a shorthanded goal was all the Minnesota Wild could muster for the first 53 minutes in a relatively lifeless 4-2 loss.
Cal Clutterbuck scored his second goal of the season with the Penguins on a power play, and Guillaume Latendresse scored his first, but the Penguins never trailed as the Wild lost their second game in a row.
Minnesota peppered Pens goalie Brent Johnson for long stretches and had a considerable advantage in power play time, but allowed a costly shorthanded goal to former Wild Pascal Dupuis to (briefly) give Pittsburgh a 4-1 lead in the third period.
What was that summertime flurry of trades about? Was it to build for the future, or supply more offense in the near-term? If it was the former, we'll give it an incomplete grade. But the immediate impact on the Wild's goal-scoring ability has not been seen in any significant way. At least not yet.
After starting with the Dany Heatley-Mikko Koivu-Devin Setoguchi line intact, Mike Yeo switched things up for the final 40 minutes on Tuesday, dropping Setoguchi to the second line with Matt Cullen and Latendresse, and moving Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the top line. And still no sustained offense was forthcoming.
"I was just looking for a spark," coach Mike Yeo said. "I didn't feel like we had any momentum or jump or life to our game right now, at that time. Just looking for a spark, more than anything else. Didn't work."
Most disturbing for the coach was the first 20 minutes, when the Wild played a too-hospitable game with Pittsburgh, which was playing its second road game in as many nights, having lost in Winnipeg on Monday.
"If a team is going to come into our building, they should know they're going to be playing against the Minnesota Wild, and it should not be a lot of fun," coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't that we made Pittsburgh feel that way in the first period."
As for the offense, or lack thereof, the players sense that what's happening now is not acceptable, but there's plenty of time to correct it.
"That's why we play 82 games," Setoguchi said. "You can't score every night. Well, you can, but who does it? Not very many people...We're over-thinking, we're not taking shots, we're looking to pass. And the power play has got to be simple."
Pens coach Dan Bylsma said his team was well aware of the danger Minnesota's newest weapons posed with the man-advantage, and said that stopping the Wild power play was his team's keystone achievement.
"A tough look from their team tonight, with (Heatley) in the slot. We've seen him be fed there numerous times this season, and we're aware of him," Bylsma said. "Zidlicky's got a great shot, and with Koivu there's a lot of weapons, a lot of things to be aware of. You've got to take away lanes."
Trailing 2-1 early in the third period, the Wild had a flurry in front of the Pens' net and looked poised to knot the score. But after the ensuing faceoff, Marco Scandella had a bad turnover in front of the Wild bench, allowing James Neal an unobstructed route to the Wild net, where he snapped a shot between Niklas Backstrom's skates for his team-leading sixth goal and a 3-1 Pittsburgh lead.
"They did a lot different than what we thought they were going to do. They have similar systems to us and do a lot of the same things, so they came out in a different set and it was up to us to adjust. (Johnson) made some big saves and our kills does a good job." - Penguins defenseman Paul Martin on his team's perfect penalty kill.
• 4: Penguins with Minnesota connections in the starting lineup. Paul Martin (Elk River) and Matt Niskanen (Virginia) started on defense, while ex-Wild skaters Pascal Dupuis and Richard Park had forward slots.
• 0-for-5: The Wild's power play efficiency.
• 399: Career games for Wild defenseman Greg Zanon, who left early after blocking a shot.
• 3-2-1: The Wild's all-time home record versus the Penguins.
Matt Lundin remains on the shelf for the Wild with back problems. For the Penguins, it's something akin to the practice squad on the ice, as superstars Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (knee) are both still out of the lineup. Pens' defenseman Brian Strait left the game in the second period and did not return after a hard check by Kyle Brodziak into the end boards. Strait went to the bench clutching his right forearm and was listed as having an upper body injury.
Penguins - Chris Kunitz 1 (Dupuis), 0:46
Penguins - Jordan Staal 3 (Michalek, Cooke), 7:14, PPG
Wild - Cal Clutterbuck 2 (Koivu), 8:07, SHG
Penguins - James Neal 6 (unassisted), 3:38
Penguins - Pascal Dupuis 2 (Cooke), 12:21, SHG
Wild - Guillaume Latendresse 1 (Cullen, Bulmer), 13:12
Shots: Wild 6-10-10-26; Penguins 9-8-8-25. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (21-25); Penguins, Brent Johnson (24-26). Power plays: Wild 0-for-5, Penguins 1-2.
1. Brent Johnson
2. Cal Clutterbuck
3. Jordan Staal
The Wild head west in search of new opportunities, with Northwest Division games at Edmonton (Thursday) and at Vancouver (Saturday) next on the schedule.
"There's always room for growth on the road," Setoguchi said. "It's just the guys, there's no distractions, there's no fans booing you in the background. You're just going out there to play. It's something maybe we need, to go on the road and simplify our game."