Penguins skate past Wild, 4-1, for 5th consecutive victory
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Penguins keep passing tests and stacking wins.
Tuesday’s 4-1 defeat of the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center served as win No. 8, and it, like the others before it, carried a common theme.
The Penguins faced a team that did something well against the rest of the league. But what worked against other teams didn’t work Tuesday.
The Wild led the league in five-on-five goals. On Tuesday, they had none.
The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the league. The Penguins nearly doubled that.
The Islanders and Devils were ranked No. 2 on the power play and finished a combined 0 for 10 against the Penguins.
The Red Wings sported the top penalty-killing unit in the league and rendered the Penguins’ power play powerless — about the only trend outside of Buffalo’s ineptitude that has held.
Top tests, top teams, the Penguins (8-2-1) don’t seem to care. They’ve won five in a row, outscoring those opponents 23-4.
“It’s nice to play those teams early and get a gauge,” Penguins forward Nick Spaling said. “We’ve had a lot of good games. They’ve been back and forth. It’s great to have some good goaltending.”
Thomas Greiss took care of that Tuesday. He stopped 34 of 35 shots to earn his first win with the Penguins.
Between Fleury and Greiss, Penguins goaltenders combined for a shutout streak of 205 minutes, 28 seconds dating to the second period of last Tuesday’s 8-3 win over New Jersey.
The team record remains 218:48, set by Fleury and Tomas Vokoun in 2013.
“It was awesome to get the win,” Greiss said. “I didn’t feel too sharp — a bunch of rebounds I wasn’t too happy with. Just small things. It’s nice to get the win and be in there.”
Center Evgeni Malkin contributed a second-period assist to extend his points streak to 11 games. He’s four away from tying his career high.
Spaling, Brandon Sutter, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist (empty net) scored for the Penguins.
Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter scored short-handed midway through the third period to snap the Penguins’ consecutive goals streak at 18.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the longest in the NHL since Phoenix ran off 18 in a row from Dec. 31, 2003-Jan. 9, 2004.
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo made his season debut and played 13:46, including 7:21 in the first period when he leveled Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund on his first shift.
“I was sucking a bit of wind in the first period there but kind of got my legs under me,” Bortuzzo said.
“It was fun to get out there and contribute to a win.”
Kunitz redirected a Malkin point shot for Pittsburgh’s 19th power-play goal of the season in 46 chances, a success rate of 41.3 percent.
The penalty-killing unit stretched its consecutive kills streak to 30 — but barely.
A disallowed power-play goal for Minnesota (7-4-0) kept that streak intact, but Johnston was largely unhappy with how his team looked late.
“I liked the first two periods. I didn’t like the third,” Johnston said. “I thought we got ourselves in trouble when we got away from our game. We tried to overpass the puck, and we didn’t play as direct as we should have.”
In other words, unlike how they played during their previous big tests.
Minnesota forward Zach Parise did not return after the second intermission with what coach Mike Yeo called an upper-body injury.