Greetings from an ugly day in Pittsburgh. It's amazing the weather we've seen within 24 hours. Yesterday in Columbus, it was 80 degrees, sunny and totally cloudless. You could get a tan in that weather. Today in Pittsburgh, clouds, 50 degrees, clouds, slight drizzle, clouds, windy and more clouds. Ugh.
We were running a bit late so no walk up from downtown. Consol Energy Center:
-We assume this is a Pitt-Johnstown hockey jacket. If so, solid:
-Former NHL all-star Pat Verbeek is in the building scouting for the Red Wings. Verbeek was one of the nastiest, toughest players you can imagine. Ask Tomas Sandstrom:
-EN commenter Miss Da Burgh checks in with two pictures. First a jersey foul that would Kjell Samuelsson mad:
-And this might be the sharpest "Slapshot" jersey we've ever seen:
-It's not a Hanson or Dunlop jersey. And it doesn't have a name plate. That would be the jersey of resident Charlestown Chiefs horndog Mo Wanchuk:
NOTE: If you're watching the FSN Pittsburgh feed at home, just wait until you get a Paul Steigerwald.... attire... for tonight. We're not going to ruin it, but it's very festive.
-It's former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach versus former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach tonight. Dan Bylsma versus Todd Richards. We assume the winner gets Michel Therrien in a free-style rap contest.
-Some sights around the arena. Lots of Halloween costumes. This gentleman is dressed up as the Burger King:
-This couple is dressed up as a member of the Ukrainian national team:
-This gentleman is dressed like a brutish, power forward from the early 1990s getting nachos:
-These ladies are dressed like a Wales Conference all-star from the late 1980s:
-This lady is dressed like a tempermental, mullet-loving teenage phenom:
-This lady is dressed like the second-best No. 71 in team history:
-This gentleman is dressed like a former 100-point scoring "superstar" for the Hull Olympiques:
-The announcement of Petr Sykora as a starter for the Wild brings a polite applause.
-This gentleman is dressed like an immature, whiny brat:
-The Penguins will honor Post-Gazette writer Dave Molinari before the game tonight for receiving the Elmer Ferguson Award. Dave will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame later in November. It's a very fitting honor for one of the best writers in hockey and someone who is an even better human being.
-The Penguins scratches are Tyler Kennedy and Evgeni Malkin.
-The Wild's scratches are Benoit Pouliot and Josh Harding.
-Marc-Andre Fleury and Niklas Backstrom are your starting goaltenders.
-No Jeff Jimerson. Alyonka Larionov... or just Alyonka as she's known professionally we suppose... sings the national anthem. No Jimerson = No pic.
20:00: "LET'S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
19:40: Sidney Crosby rushes up the ice and challenges Brent Burns one-on-one from the right wing. Burns hacks the puck off Crosby's stick.
19:10: Chris Bourque, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jordan Staal are on a line once again. Bourque snaps off a wrister from the top of hte slot. Backstrom knocks it away.
17:53: Matt Cooke, Craig Adams and Pascal Dupuis man the third line. Adams whips a wrister on net from the right wing. Backstrom fights it off.
17:30: Chris Conner (5-foot-8, 180 pounds), Mike Rupp (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and Eric Godard (6-foot-4, 214 pounds) compose the fourth line. That could be a game of "Which of these don't belong?"
16:32: Mikko Koivu, who is probably Minnesota's best player, snaps off a wrister from the right faceoff circle on a nice feed by Andrew Brunette from behidn the net. Fleury is able to steer it away.
15:38: Fedotenko comes from around the corner, turns and whips a wrister at the net. Backstrom knocks it down and covers.
14:10: Solid sign hanging from the north F balcony: "IT'S HALLOWEEN, TIME TO DISH OUT SOME FREE CANDY!"
13:29: Backstrom kicks out a quick wrister by Crosby on the left wing.
15:54: Eric Belanger comes up the right wing and lifts a wrister high of the cage.
12:15: Staal emerges out of the corner in Minnesota's zone with the puck, moves towards the net an instead of trying to jam on by Backstrom, he attemps a pass to Bourque coming in from the right wing. The pass gets broken up and slides towards the crease where Backstrom covers. Someone got a shot of Steigerwald's Dracula get up:
11:51: Staal dishes a backhanded pass into the slot for Bourque. Bourque takes a tumble after getting hooked by Belanger. Belanger holds his hand up as if to complain Bourque took a dive. Officials send Beltange to the box. Crosby, BIll Guerin, Chris Kunitz, Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang are on for the power play.
11:15: Letang skates towards the slot off the left wing and chucks a wrister on net. Backstrom knocks it away with his glove.
9:55: Sykora banks a puck off the boards and gets it up ice, essentially killing the rest of Belanger's penalty. The Penguins actually looked a little better that power play than they did with any of their man-advantage chances last night.
9:37: Adams snaps off a wrister from the right point. Backstrom gloves it.
9:15: Dupuis drives in from the left wing and tries to jam in a backhander. Backstrom keeps it out.
8:13: Bourque comes in from the left wing and puts a wrister on net. Crosby takes a spill into the crease and takes Bourque's shot right in the kisser. Crosby's a little dazed and appears to accuse someone of shoving him into the crease.
7:49: The Wild strike first. Burns snaps off a wrister from the right poing. It hits about 23 people before it hits Fleury. The rebound kicks to his right where Kyle Brodziak is right there and gets the Michel Ouellet garbage special. Chuck Kobasew apparently tipped that shot by Burns as he gets an assist along with Burns. Wild 1-0.
5:15: Kunitz pumps a slapper on net from the left wing. Backstrom gloves it.
5:12: Off a faceoff, Dupuis gets on the board. Adams wins a faceoff and gets it back to Skoula at the left point. Skoula then dishes to to Dupuis who immediately one-times the puck from tthe slot. It beats Backstrom low on the glove side. Backstrom appears to bark at a teammate. Not sure about what. He wasnt' really screened on that. It's Dupuis' second goal of the season. Skoula get his second assist in as many nights. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1, Wild 1.
4:39: Adams gets another shot on net. Backstrom kicks out his low wrister from the right wing. That's three for Adams by our count.
2:37: Guerin fights off a check and whips a wrister to the far side wide.
2:29: Bourque emerges from behind the cage and tries a spinning wrister. Backstrom fights it off.
1:58: Bourque is operating behind the cage once again. This time he just puts into the crease. Letang crashes in and kind of "knees" it on net. Backstrom fights it off.
1:43: Owen Nolan rips a wrister from the top of the slot. Conner lays down and blocks it.
0:55: Cooke and Cal Clutterbuck, two players with similar attributes, mix it up in front of the Wild bench. Clutterbuck invites Cooke to a fight. An official immediately separates them. Watch for those two later in this game.
0:49: Staal throws a wrister on net from the left wing. Bakstrom gloves it.
0:15: Letang makes a nice play on a back check and breaks up a centering pass to Nolan in the slot. Nolan had a clean look at the net there too.
0:00.6: Oh geez. Minnesota scored with very little time left. Owen Nolan fights Brooks Oprik off the puck behind the cage. That allows Havlat to skate in and distribute a pass immediately to Belanger in the left faceoff circle. Belange immediatley rips a wrister that beats Fleury over the blocker side. Heck of a play by Nolan to get that puck to Havlat and fantastic shot by Belanger. The Penguins got a little lazy there at the end though. Havlat and Nolan get assists. Wild 2-1.
0:00: End of period. Wild 2, Penguins 1.
-Well, that was actually a pretty good period of hockey for the Penguins for the first 19:59.4. They were much more aggresive than the Wild. They generate more chances and attacked the net a lot more. But they got a little lazy late and are down by a goal as a result.
-Backstrom's the reason his team is in the lead. He's been very good so far. The Dupuis goal wasn't a great one to give up, but he's been very composed so far.
-Bourque's playing really well. He's generated a few chances offensively.
-Adams is playing his best game of the season so far.
-The Penguins are dominating shots, 16-4.
-Two goals on four shots? It doesn't look good for Fleury, but the first goal wasn't really his fault. He couldn't really see the initial shot from the point and he was lucky to even make that save. The rebound was just unfortunate. The second goal, his defense let him down. Belanger ripped a fantastic shot.
-Adams leads the game with three shots.
-No one for the Wild has more than one.
-Greg Zanon leads the game with 8:21 of ice time.
-Staal leads the Penguins with 7:56.
-Faceoffs are even, 9-9 (50 percent).
-Adams is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Koivu is 2 for 2 (100 percent).
-No one has more than one blocked shot.
-We forgot to post this in the pregame post. A "Youngblood" jersey:
-And EN reader Kelli Zappas sends us in this jersey foul:
-Frankly, we're not even sure how to classify this jersey foul.
19:36: Skoula blocks a shot from the right wing by his former teammate Clutterbuck and gets it out of danger. We're liking Skoula more and more.
19:11: Scoring change. Nolan loses his assist and Zanon gets one. Nolan might not have touched the puck, but he set up that goal.
17:48: Big John Scott throws a shot at the net from the left point. It hits a cluster of bodies in front and squeezes through to the crease. Fleury covers it to freeze play. Attendance is announced as 16,960. It is the team's 126th consecutive sellout.
17:07: Guerin and Kunitz get two chances in tight. Backstrom denies Guerin. The post denies Kunitz.
14:04: After about three minutes of nothing, Pascal Dupuis gets a chance from the right point. He chops a slapper at the net. It hits a body in the slot. Bourque gets the rebound and puts a wrister on net. Backstrom makes the save.
12:55: Bobby Orrpik leads the rush up ice on the right wing and dishes a cross ice pass to Guerin on the right wing. Guerin goes to one knee and gets a shot off immediately. Backstrom kicks it out of play.
12:45: Kunitz chops a slapper at the net from the right point that goes wide.
12:34: Orpik tees up a slapper from the left point. Despite a screen, Backstrom makes an easy glove save. Backstrom is on tonight.
11:40: Cooke breaks his stick while blocking a shot. He skates to the bench to get a replacement. Dupuis has a brain cramp and jumps on the ice. Cooke gets a stick and Dupuis hops back on the bench.
11:00: Dupuis challenges three wild defenders while rushing up the middle of the ice. Unfortunately, Dupuis' offensive wizardry is put on hold as he managers
10:24: Crosby collects a loose puck behind the net and throws a backhander at the cage from the right of the crease. It squeezes through a bunch of bodies and slides through to the other side.
10:07: Crosby makes a few nifty moves weaving through Minnesota defenders. Before he can enter the offensive zone, Zanon sticks him on his wallet with a nice check.
9:30: Rupp and Clutterbuck have a bit collision in front of the Penguins' bench. Rupp tries to fight Clutterbuck but the Wild forward skates away.
9:03: Rupp has a nice chance in the crease. He tries to jam it under Backstrom. The puck hops up in the air. Kobasew is Johnny-on-the-spot and swats it out of danger with his hand.
8:45: We forgot to mention this. A few minute ago Steeler safety Troy Polamalu was shown in a suite on the video board. He was given a nice ovation.
7:24: Brunette pumps a slapper on net from the right wing. That might've been the Wild's best chance this period. They've only had three shots on net including that one in the second.
7:09: Koivu snaps off a wrister from the right wing. Fleury kicks it out despite being screened.
6:37: Crosby lumberjacks Koivu's stick in the right faceoff circle in the Penguins' zone. It snaps off the blade. That's two minutes for slashing. Staal, Adams, Jay mcKee and Mark Eaton are on for the kill.
5:58: McKee blocks a slapper by Burns from the right point.
3:38: Cooke appears to trip Koivu along the boards. No call.
4:41: Dupuis pushes the puck up the left wing and pumps a slapper on net. Backstro makes the save. Crosby's penalty expires. Solid effort by the Penguins that two minutes.
4:20: Skoula snaps off a wrister on net from the left wing. Backstrom makes the save but is terribly out of place for the rebound. Staal is there with the empty cage, but Shane Hnidy appears to get a stick on the shot and deflects it wide. What a play bay Hnidy.
4:03: Letang takes a pass on the right wing and fires a slapper on net. Backstrom makes the easy glove save.
3:20: Crosby and Marek Zidlicky get tangled up behind the Wild net. Crosby gives him a shove to the ice from behind.
3:22: As play is stopped, Crosby and Zidlicky give each other a a couple of slashes. Crosby appears to invite him to a fight. Zidlicky doesn't exactly accept the invitation but that doesn't stop Crosby as he drops his gloves and starts to fight Zidlicky. Zidlicky drops his gloves. Crosby lands a few then gets Zidlicky's jersey up over his head. Officials step in that happens and save Zidlicky. Well... that certainly wasn't a fight we would've expected with guys like Eric Godard, Derek Boogaard, Matt Cooke and Cal Clutterbuck in the lineup. Each player gets five minutes for fighting and two minutes for slashing. We'll take that trade off if we're Minnesota. Each player goes to the locker room since it's late int he period. It will remain five on five.
1:29: The Penguins get a power play late. Guerin rushes up ice with the puck and has his stick hacked in half by Nick Schultz. That's two minutes. Letang, Goligoski, Guerin, Staal and Kunitz are on for the power play. Who would ever think you'd see a first unit power play for the Penguins that didn't include Crosby, Gonchar or Evgeni Malkin? FSN Pittsburgh shows a replay of Kris Letang and Petr Sykora exhanging words before a faceoff. Sykora never returned Letang's DVD of "The Naked Gun" before he left town:
1:12: Letang pumps a slapper on net from the left wing. Backstrom makes the save.
0:29: Kunitz pumps a slapper from the right point that goes wide.
0:19: Kunitz gets some serious air time as he jumps up and keeps a puck in the zone with his hand.
0:10: Kunitz nullifies his nice play and forces a terrible pass. The Wild intercept and dump it down ice.
0:00: End of period. Wild 2, Penguins 1.
-That was another good period for the Penguins. They just couldn't get one by Backstrom. He's pretty much the main reason this is still the Wild's game.
-The Penguins continue to be more aggressive. They're attacking the net, getting shots off and generating chances. It almost feels like it's a matter of time befor they get one in. And given their recent run of come backs, who can you argue against them?
-Kunitz looks a lot more confident with his shot. He's not hesitating to pull the trigger.
-Ditto Chris Bourque. He's generating some chances.
-Dupuis seems to have a little bit more energy tonight.
-The Penguins have 26-9 lead in shots. And they're losing.
-Dupuis, Adams, Letang and Koivu each lead the game with three shots.
-Zanon leads the game with 17:08 of ice time.
-Staal leads the Penguins with 16:36.
-The Penguins have a 18-17 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Adams is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Koivu and Nolan are each 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Dupuis, Skoula and McKee lead the game with three blocked shots each.
-Zidlicky leads the Wild with two.
-The timeless "Thriller" is played during the intermission:
20:00: The Penguins will have 30 seconds of power-play time on clean ice. Guerin, Staal, Kunitz, Letang and Goligoski take the ice.
19:31: Stala has a shot from the left wing blocked.
19:24: Staal gets a chance in front just as Schlutz's penalty expires. Backstrom lays out and makes a great save with his torso.
18:45: Adams pumps a slapper on net from the right wing. Backstrom makes the save. He gives up a bad rebound to his right. Cookeis there but a Wild player dives to block his shot.
17:43: Sykora pumps a heavy slapper on net from the right wing. Fleury fights it off.
17:02: Fleury covers and freezes a puck in the crease. Kobasew tries to dig out a rebound but play is halted.
15:51: The Wild is nabbed for too many men. Sykora will serve the penalty. The stoppage allows Crosby and Zidlicky to leave the penalty boxes. Crosby Kunitz, Guerin, Goligoski and Letang are on for the power play. Big two minutes for each team here.
15:16: Burns breaks Crosby's stick along the boards. No call. During the stoppage, the official drops the puck before Crosby is even near the circle. The WIld win the faceoff and get it down ice. Wow. They must really be mad at Crosby tonight. You don't see the officials do that too often. And they're with in their rights. You're supposed to have the faceoff 20 seconds after the stoppage of play outside of injuries or commercial time outs.
13:51: The Wild kill off the penalty. Very little going on for the Penguins.
13:26: Staal drops Hnidy in the corner with a shoulder check.
12:50: Rupp comes off the boards and snaps off a wrister from the left faceoff circle. Backstrom knocks it down and covers. Bourque and Dupuis are there for a rebound but no dice.
12:34: Dupuis moves into the offensive zone and whips a wrister on net from the left wing.
12:14: Koivu snaps off a wrister from the left wing. Antti Miettinen, whose name we've been hoping to avoid having to spell tonight, has a nice screen. Despite that. Fleury is able to make the save.
11:28: Crosby tosses a puck on net from the left point. Backstrom eats it up. During the stoppage, Letang gives Sykora a shove. Sykora pretty much whacks Letang in the face. They each get minors. Sykora gets two minutes for high sticking. Letang for head-butting? Ooookay. Four-on-four. We wonder what's up with those two.
10:20: Orpik tosses a puck on net from the left wing. Crosby charges the net and seems to actually deflect it wide.
10:06: Kunitz pump a slapper on net from high in the slot. Backstrom makes the save.
9:22: As the Sykora and Letang penalties expire, the Penguins put about 32 chances on net and couldn't get onby Backstrom. We have not hopes of recapping what all went on in that scramble. Crosby backhands a puck on net from the right wing. Backstrom makes the save with his right shoulder. The rebound hops up. Kunitz crashes in. the Rebound kicks to the side where Oprik can't punch it in but he manages to hammer a Minnesota player to the ice. Orpik and Bourque gets chances but no dice.
8:20: Rupp and Scott leave the ice following a scrum near the Penguins' bench. Those are two big boys. Scott is 6-foot-8, 258 pounds. Geez.
7:35: The Penguins set up a "Whitney Play" for Letang coming in off the right wing. Letang shoots. Backstrom is able to make slide over and make the save with his stomach.
7:05: Koivu blasts a slapper from just outside the Penguins' blue line. Fleury gloves it and distributes to Goligoski.
6:20: As the penalties to Rupp and Scott end, Eaton tosses a shot on net. It gets deflected wide.
5:04: "LET"S GO PENS! LET'S GO PENS!"
4:24: Crosby makes a nice steal in the offensive zone. He turns and approaches the net. Instead of shooting, he forces a pass to Guerin on the left wing. The pass is broken up. He's got to take that shot. We know it wasn't a high percentage shot, but he has a better chance of scorign there than forcing that pass.
3:54: Adams gets tripped ub behind the Wild net. No call. He did appear to embellish that a bit.
3:30: Dupuis puts a shot on net from the left wing. Backstrom makes the save. Staal and Scott crash into the net dislodging it. Staal looks so small compared to Scott.
1:49: Adams comes flyin in on the left wing stealing a puck off Zidlicky. He cuts to the crease, goes backhand and has Backstrom beat on the glove side but juuuust pushes his backhander wide.
1:34: After a crazy sscrambel in tight, play is halted as Belanger is down on the ice. Goligoski fell and clipped him in the nose with a high stick. Belanger is bleeding pretty good. he recovers to his feet and a trainer attends to him. Belanger and the trainer go to the locker room for repairs. That looked ugly.
1:31: Fleury is pulled for an extra attacker which is Guerin.
1:02: The Wild bank a shot off the wall and ice the puck. Goligoski goes back and retrieves it for the icing call.
0:40: Letang fires a wrister from the right point. it gets deflected wide.
0:03: Following a lot of scrumming in the crease, Goligoski barely keep a puck in the zone, turns and fires a desperation wrister which is blocked by Miettinen.
0:00: End of game. Wild 2, Penguins 1.
-The Penguins played a good game. They played much better than they did last night against the Blue Jackets. The just ran into a goaltender who was really tuned in tonight and a team that was committed to defense. Sometimes, you're just not going to win.
-Like we said, the Penguins did a lot of good things tonight. They played their game. They were aggressive. They attacked the zone with speed. They got pucks on net and bombarded Backstrom as much as possible with shots and bodies. They played their game.
-If fatigue was a factor, it wasn't evident. The Penguins had every excuse to come out flat after last night's emotional come back win. But they played with high level of energy tonight. In fact, their effort was much more consistent than it was last night.
-Backstrom was outstanding. He was rarely out of position. He made just about every save look easy and even got a few lucky bounces. He was the biggest reason for the Wild's win tonight.
-We though the Todd Richards version of the Minnesota Wild was supposed to be free-wheeling, aggressive and high-tempo. It looked like the Jacques Lemaire version of the Minnesota Wild. They rarely challenged the Penguins offensively. They had a total team commitment to defense and took away a lot of shots and passing lanes.
-It was probably a good idea for the Wild to adopt a more conservative approach. They probably can't run up and down the ice with the Penguins, even if folks like Malkin and Gonchar are out of the lineup.
-Fleury was fine. He played well enough to win. He probably could've given up a better rebound on the first goal, but he was lucky to make any save on the initial shot from the point. And he had no chances on the second goal. His teammates left him out to dry there.
-We really liked the individual performances of Adams, Bourque and Dupuis. All three brought a lot of energy and put pucks on net. They stepped up in elevated roles and contributed in whatever way they could. They just don't have much ability to finish chances.
-The Penguins had an overwhelming lead in shots, 35-15.
-Dupuis led the game with five.
-Goligoski, Eaton, Godard and Skoula were the only Penguins' skaters who didn't record an official shot.
-Koivu led the Wild with four.
-Zanon led the game with 26:26 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 25:15.
-The Wild had a 27-26 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Koivu was 8 for 12 (67 percent).
-Adams was 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Zidlicky, Dupuis, Skoula and McKee each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Assuming the two teams don't meet in the Stanley Cup Final, the Wild will finish with a 5-1-0 record all-time in Mellon Arena. That equates to an oustanding .833 winning percentage. We're pretty sure no other team has a chance to top that.
-Dupuis passed up Michel Briere for 151st place on the team's all-time scoring list. Each player has 45 points but Dupuis (16) has more goals than Briere (12).
-Dan Bylsma speaks. Oh the loss.
" Last night, we know we could've played a lot better. Tonight was about as closest to a perfect game - five on five - as we've played. For 60 minutes, we played three hard periods and we had a lot of action around the net. We dictated the pace in the offensive zone and we don't get the result. It's tough to swallow in terms of looking for justice. We weren't on the right side of justice last night and we got the two points."
-On Backstrom and Minnesota's defense:
"Their goaltender played extremely well and they played hard defensively. They blocked a lot of shots. We had quality zone time. We had shots to the net but they had two and three guys blocking shots. Pucks were sticking underneath their bodies. They were getting slashed and whacked and they battled pretty hard."
-On a small break before going ot the West Coast:
"We've played three or four nights. That's a lot of hockey. Things are spread out a little bit here on the road. Hopefully we get a little bit more healthier as we go this week. This will be a chance to take a breather and get on the road. We should have some time to focus on our game. We're looking forward to a little bit of rest and getting on the road."
-On being without Crosby for seven minutes:
"Well it hurt when we got the power play. We'd like to have that player on the ice for the power play. But I also think that we were playing a good game but we needed a to push a little harder. We needed to have a level of emotion we could add to that . I think that (Crosby's fight) there brought that to our team. There was a level of emotion brought to the game. We knew we had to make a push and you have to play game without certain players that can't be out there for every minute.
-We assume Crosby is a crybaby for starting that fight. That is how it goes right? Crosby fight = crybaby. Mike Richards fight = Winston Churchill, George S. Patton and Optimus Prime all rolled into one.