-Dave Molinari's recap from last night's game. "There is a challenge for us to find motivation to play well right now." - Matt Niskanen.
-The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's recap. “Regardless whether they had something to play for or not, we did. We did our job.” - Wild forward Zach Parise.
-The St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. "With every game, it's more closer to the playoff hockey and everybody has to be sharp. Everyone understands, just work hard and we believed each other and helped each other. That's I think the formula to success." - Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
-The Associated Press' recap. "It's just a matter of making sure we find that urgency here for the last couple." - Sidney Crosby (above).
-Highlights (so to speak):
-Paul Martin and former teammate Matt Cooke battled for this puck:
-Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Brian Gibbons raced for this puck:
-A good look at the lid of Bryzgalov:
-Dan Bylsma speaks:
-Olli Maatta missed the game due to an "upper-body" injury.
-Jussi Jokinen ("upper-body" injury) missed his first game of the season.
-How would the Penguins match up against the Red Wings or the Blue Jackets in a playoff series?
-An overtime goal by Nick Drazenovic gave the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 1-0 win against the Albany Devils. Peter Mannino made 25 saves in the shutout win.
-The win moved the Penguins into first place in the East Division.
-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin doesn't make many trips to the penalty box.
-Kieran Millan made 22 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 3-1 loss to the Orlando Solar Bears.
-Happy 39th birthday to former Penguins defenseman Hal Gill. Acquired at the 2008 trade deadeline in exchange for drafts picks. Gill spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins, both of which, ended in the Stanley Cup Final. He finished 2007-08 by appearing in 18 games for the Penguins and scoring four points. In the 2009 postseason, Gill saw action in 20 games and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 2008-09 by playing in 62 games and scoring 10 points. He appeared in all 24 postseason games that spring, recorded two points and helped the franchise claim its third Stanley Cup championship. During the 2009 offseason, he joined the Canadiens as a free agent. In 80 regular season games with the Penguins, Gill scored 14 points. In 44 posteason games, he recorded three assists. He is currently a member of the Flyers.
-Happy 37th birthday to former Penguins forward Ville Nieminen. Acquired along with Rick Berry at the 2002 trade deadeline in a deal which sent Darius Kasparaitis to Colorado, Nieminen spent parts of two season with the Penguins. He finished 2001-02 by playing in 13 games for the Penguins and scoring three points. In 2002-03, Nieminem saw action in 75 games and scored 21 points. During the 2003 offseason, he joined the Blackhawks as a free agent. In 88 games with the Penguins, he scored 24 points. He is currently a the captain of Tappara of Finland's Liiga.
-Happy 41st birthday to former Penguins forward Tyler Wright. Acquired in the 1996 offseason in a a deal which sent a draft pick to the Oilers, Wright spent four seasons with the Penguins. In 1996-97, he saw action in 45 games and scored four points. During 1997-98, Wright played in all 82 games and scored seven points. He would play in six postseason games that spring and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 1998-99 by seeing action in 61 games and somehow failed to record a point. He continued that scoring pace in that seasons' playoffs by playing in in 13 games and failed to record a single point. In 1999-2000, played in 50 games and netted 22 points. He played in 11 postseason games that spring and contributed four points. During the 2000 offseason, he was claimed by Blue Jackets in the expansion draft. In 238 regular season games with the Penguins, he scored 33 points. In 30 postseason games, he scored five points. He currently is the director of amateur scouting of the Red Wings.
-After the Jump: The Devils get back into the playoff race while the Bruins clinch first place in the Eastern Conference.
Paul Ryan is up to his old tricks. He is proposing a budget that helps the rich and hurts the poor and has no chance of passing. But it could help his chances at being the GOP nominee in 2016.
-With the Bruins beating the Flyers today, the first two seeds in the Eastern Conference are officially set. The Bruins are the No. 1 seed while the Penguins are the second seed. What is also almost set is the Bruins' and Penguins' opponents.
-With nearly two weeks remaining in the season, it looks all but certain the Penguins will face the Red Wings in the first round. The Bruins appear set to face the Blue Jackets in the first round. The Canadiens and Lightning as well as Flyers and Rangers are virtual locks to face each other in the first round also.
-What's to blame for this relative lack of intrigue in the final stages of the regular season? Realignment. With the Red Wings and Blue Jackets each moving to the Eastern Conference and the change in the postseason structure, the day-to-day races which gave the relatively boring regular season some mystery down the stretch have disappeared. In the old format, a 1-through-8 seeing structure, the potential first-round matchups changed on a daily basis. Last season, the Penguins didn't know they would face the Islanders in the first round until the final days of the season.
-The 1-through-8 format was not perfect. More often than not, the No. 3 seed was awarded to the worst of the three division winners in each conference, got a high seed and that was rarely fare to the No. 4 or 5 seeds who had to slug it out in the first round. The Southeast Division winner was usually the biggest perpetrator of this crime. That said, the 1-through-8 format was much better and much more interesting than this mess we currently have.
-Jussi Jokinen will not play tonight. He took a big hit from Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien Thursday. This is a smart move. The Penguins have nothing to gain the rest of this regular season as far as the standings are concerned. It's time to rest some bumps and bruises.
-The great Joe Vitale has returned to Pittsburgh from the road trip to have his "upper-body" injury examined.
-Long-time Penguins killer Dany Heatley appears to be a healthy scratch tonight. How the might have fallen. This was at one time, one of the premier goal scoring wingers in the NHL. With Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson, he formed the "Pizza Line" in Ottawa which was so dangerous in 2005-06, the NHL's first season with newer rules which promoted offense following the 2004-05 lockout. Tonight, he's watching the game in while the likes of Justin Fontaine will play.
-Some bad news for the Penguins:
Olli Maatta is scratched again. This time, he is not healthy. Details after game, presumably.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) April 5, 2014
-According to the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines and defensive pairings in warmups were:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Beau Bennett
Brian Gibbons - Brandon Sutter - James Neal
Jayson Megna - Andrew Ebbett - Lee Stempniak
Taylor Pyatt - Craig Adams - Tanner Glass
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen - Simon Despres
Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo
-We look at those lines and see second or third chances for Sutter and Despres. These are opportunities for them to show they deserve elevated roles with this team.
-The Penguins' starters are Brian Gibbons, James Neal, Brandon Sutter, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen and Jeff Zatkoff.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Marcel Goc, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maatta, Evgeni Malkin and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Wild's starters are Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Ryan Suter and Ilya Bryzgalov.
-Their scratches are Niklas Backstrom, Keith Ballard, Jake Dowell, Christian Folin, Mikael Grandlund, Dany Heatley, Darcy Kuemper, Mike Rupp and Clayton Stoner.
19:30: Neal corrals a puck at the right point and deals it to Sutter to the left of the cage. Sutter rips a wrister from in tight. Bryzgalov fights it off.
19:18: Niskanen chucks a wrister on net from the right point. Bryzgalov eats it up.
18:58: Crosby races up the right wing and flings a backhander over the cage.
18:50: Off a feed by Crosby, Niskanen chucks another wrister on net from the right point. Bryzgalov snags it.
18:38: Erik Haula takes a drop pass on the right half wall and cranks it on net. Zatkoff eats it up.
18:18: The Wild strikes first. At the Penguins' blue line, former Penguins prospect Matt Moulson chips a puck up the slot. Haula sneaks behind Bortuzzo to the puck and backhand swipes the bouncer by Zatkoff's blocker. What a crafty play by Moulson. Bortuzzo was toasted on that play. Moulson gets the only assist. Fire Ray Shero. Wild 1-0.
16:58: The Wild nearly doubles its lead. Off a feed by Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise has a chance in tight but can't jam it behind Zatkoff.
14:31: The Wild will get the first power play. Jonathan Blum flings a cross-ice pass to Jason Pomivinlle to the right of the net. Stempniak is on the backcheck and hooks up Pominville preventing from getting the puck. That's two minutes. Glass, Sutter, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
13:37: Koivu pumps a one-timer from the right half wall. Zatkoff kicks it out. Sutter clears the rebound down ice.
12:48: Nino Niederreiter has a slapper from the right circle blocked by Bortuzzo.
12:28: As Stempniak returns to play Marco Scandella has a slapper from the right half wall stopped by Zatkoff.
11:13: The Wild does double up as Parise scores this time. On a two-on-two play, Parise pushes the puck up the right wing wall against Martin. As Koivu drives to the net with Stempniak, Parise cuts to the high slot and flings a wrister though traffic and behind Zatkoff. The puck apparently glanced off Koivu as he is credited with the goal. Parise and Coyle get assists. It's Parise's 500th career point. Wild 2-0.
9:10: Bennett pulls up on the left wing and whips a wrister on net. Byzgalov eats it up.
8:47: Bortuzzo chases after a puck behind his net and trips up. He crashes into the end boards awkwardly but appears fine. Afterwards, he gets some repairs from equipment manager Dana Heinze:
Robert Bortuzzo might be Robocop: pic.twitter.com/GVio8OKdkD— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 6, 2014
8:08: Glass smacks Spurgeon with a wolid hit behind the Wild net.
5:47: Pyatt lifts a wrister from teh slot. Bryzgalov fights it off.
5:04: This is getting ugly. Orpik trie to play a dump-in from his own left wing corner. Martin tries to play the puck but McCormick steals the puck and whacks it to the slot. Stephane Veilleux knocks the puck dead and whips a spinning wrister. Orpik is there and gets a piece of it with his stick. The puck flutters off the glove of Zatkoff and deflects into the cage. Oof. Martin can't turn that puck over. And even if Orpik deflected the puck, that should have been an easy save for Zatkoff. McCormick gets the only assists. Wild 3-0.
4:28: The Penguins get a chance to get back into this game as Kyle Bodziak is nabbed for hooking Crosby near the Wild slot. Crosby, Kunitz, Neal, Martin and Niskanen take the ice.
4:06: Niskanen chops a slap/pass from the left circle to the crease. Kunitz re-directs it wide.
3:18: Off a feed by Kunitz, Neal whips a rising wrister on net. Bryzgalov fights it off.
3:01: Off a furious rush, Bennett whips a big wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.
2:41: Despres chucks a wrister from the center point. It rattles around a bit. Sutter and Bennett each have a chance at the rebound but can't get a clean stick on it.
2:28: As the Brodziak minor expires, Stempniak jabs a sharp wrister from in tight on the left wing. Bryzgalov fights it off.
0:43: Nate Prosser chases down a puck on the on the right wing and slaps it at the cage. Orpik blocks it.
0:34: Koivu chops a shot from the left circle. Zatkoff smothers it.
0:00: End of period. Suter and Despres exchange a few shoves. Neal exchanges a few words with former teammate Matt Cooke. Wild 3, Penguins 0.
-That was ugly. Each team has some holes in their lineup but the Penguins were the only team with spotty focus.
-For the Penguins, this game has only a marginal amount of greater importance than a preseason game. That's pretty much how they played that period.
-Zatkoff needed to be better. Some of the plays the Wild scored on were off some lucky hops but Zatkoff needed to prevent one or two of those goals.
-Paul Martin was lauded in this space Thursday for what he offered the Penguins in terms of puck possession but his turnover which led to Minnesota's third goal was poor.
-Oddly, the Penguins' JV power play united looked sharper than the varsity unit.
-The Penguins have an 8-6 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 20-11 lead in attempted shots.
-Koivu leads the game with three shots.
-Niskanen, Kunitz and Neal each lead the Penguins with two shots.
-Jonas Brodin leads the game with 10:59 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 7:41.
-The Wild has a 13-8 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).
-Koivu is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Ebbett is 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Koivu and Cooke each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-A reader spotted a Ryan Vandenbussche jersey at the game:
18:52: A wrister by Crosby from the left circle deflects wide to the far side.
18:21: After Despres chucks a bad pass into the skate of Bennett on the Penguins' left wing wall, Pominville steals the puck and deals it to Moulson into the left circle. Moulson swipes a heavy one-timer which Zatkoff kicks out.
17:45: Sutter settles a puck in the right circle and sneaks a pass to Neal on the backdoor. From the left of the blue paint, Neal stops the puck with his skates and taps a backhanded shot on net while falling. Bryzgalov is able to reach back and fight it off with his stick. Wow.
16:06: Cooke runs over Despres in the Penguins' left wing corner.
14:47: Off a give and go with Ebbett, Gibbons chops a one-timer from the right circle which hits of the end boards. It deflects to the left of the cage. Stempniak chases it down and tries to jab it into the cage but can't get a clean handle on it.
13:36: The rout is on. Coyle taps a pass from the right half wall to Parise in the right wing corner. Parise has an acre of ice to work with. He moves towards the cage and feeds the puck to McCormick in the slot. Crosby sort of has McCormick covered but he's not in good position. McCormick chops the puck behind Zatkoff. Oof. The Penguins' defensive zone structure, if you could call it that, was all over the place there. Parise and Coyle get assists. Wild, 4-0.
11:59: Suter chucks a wrister from the left half wall on net. Zatkoff eats it up.
11:15: Off a feed by Martin, Kunitz snaps off a wrister from the right half wall. Bryzgalov boots it out.
10:43: Parise races up the right wing, gets a step or two on Martin and rips a wrister. Zatkoff eats it up.
9:58: Spurgeon booms a slapper from the right point. it hits a stick or two before Zatkoff fights it off. The Wild keeps pressing.
9:07: Neal rips a wrister from the right wing which hits Sutter.
6:53: Bennett feeds a pass from the slot to Bortuzzo on the right point. Bourozz umps slapper which Parise blocks.
6:33: Spurgeon booms a one-timer from the right point. Zatkoff eats it up.
5:33: Glass smacks Prosser to the ice on the left wing wall of the Wild's wall.
3:50: Sutter rips a wrister from the right circle over the cage.
3:38: Off a little Murphy dump pass by Martin, Neal swipes a one-time from a bad angle on the right wing. Bryzgalov kicks it out. Kunitz has the rebound on the left of the cage but fires it wide.
0:40: After a few stagnant minutes, Parise chops a backhander from the right circle. Zatkoff fights it off.
0:18: The Wild will get a late power play. Bortuzzo hooks up Parise above the left circle of the Penguins' zone. That's an easy two minutes. Adams, Sutter, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Wild 4, Penguins 0.
-That was more of the same. The Penguins looked really disorganized that period. To make matters worse, they were outworked most of the period.
-This feels like we're second guessing coaching decisions in a preseason game, but at this point, we would slides Brandon Sutter back to the third line and get him more acclimated with Lee Stempniak or Brian Gibbons or whoever they want the third line wingers to be. There's nothing to gain by having Sutter play on the second line.
-We would keep Zatkoff in net as well. He's playing to get Marc-Andre Fleury some rest.
-Bryzgalov has been pretty sharp. The rebound he has been kicking out have not been ideal for second-chance scoring opportunities.
-The Wild have a 16-13 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 34-26 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with four shots.
-Koivu and Parise each lead the Wild with three shots.
-Suter leads the Wild with 19:35 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 15:23.
-The Wild has a 23-14 lead in faceoffs (62 percent).
-Koivu is 10 for 13 (77 percent).
-Sutter is 6 for 13 (46 percent).
-Despres, Scandella, Koivu, Suter, Cooke and Prosser each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-Fire Ray Shero.
20:00: The Wild will start the period with 1:43 of power-play time on fresh ice. Martin, Orpik, Gibbons and Crosby take the ice.
19:33: Off a drop pass by Crosby, Martin swipes a shot-handed wrister from the right circle. Bryzgalov kicks it out.
19:17: Off a turnover by Gibbons, Pominville fires a wrister from the right circle which Zatkoff fights off.
19:07: Suter pounds a slapper from the right point. Martin blocks it.
18:17: Bortuzzo's minor is killed. The Wild had a few solid chances with that power play.
17:34: Megna tries to sweep in a forehand wraparound attempt from behind the net, Bryzgalov holds it out and smothers the rebound.
16:46: Despres swipes a one-time from above the right circle. Bryzgalov smothers it.
15:07: Prosser chucks a wrister from the right point. It deflects wide.
13:39: Blum chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a stick or skate and deflects out of play.
11:41: Botuzzo chucks a wrister from the right point. It hits a body and bounces away.
10:38: Orpik pounds a slapper from the right point. Bryzglov fights it off.
10:35: Veilleux slams glass to the ice away from the puck. That's an easy interference minor. Martin, Niskanen, Cosby, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
9:48: From the right half wall, Crosby feeds a pass to Neal in the slot. Neal whacks a big one-timer which Bryzgalov kicks out.
9:27: Bennett taps a little feed from below the goal line to Niskanen in the slot. Niskanen chops a shot on net which Bryzgalov kicks out.
8:37: From the left circle, Ebbett fires a wrister which is blocked side.
8:31: As Veilleux's minor expires, Stempniak chucks a wrister from the high slot which is blocked.
4:46: After a few stangnant minutes, Bennett turns the puck over from his left wing boards. Cooke steals it and chucks it on net from the right circle. Zatkoff eats it up.
3:43: Pyatt fires a spinning wrister from the right circle wide on the near side.
2:09: Bennett chucks a shot/pass from the left wing to the net. It fails to connect with a teammate's stick.
0:00: End of game. Wild 4, Penguins 0.
-First things first, an update on Olli Maatta:
Bylsma says Maatta's injury isn't serious. Lists him day-to-day.— Dave Molinari (@MolinariPG) April 6, 2014
-If that game meant nothing to Penguins, it was certainly evident with how they played. That was a disjointed, unfocused and incomplete of an effort as they have offered all season. In many ways, it resembled a preseason game for the Penguins.
-We're willing to forgive the lack of structure and the lack of cohesion from a structure standpoint. That's understandable given the circumstances. The lack of an honest effort was disappointing. Many members of the Penguins looked like they were going through the motions.
-We're not expecting the Penguins to go full-bore to block shots and smash defensemen on the forecheck. There's something to be said for self preservation at this stage of the season. But whatever the Penguins offered tonight clearly wasn't enough.
-This game certainly meant something to the Wild. Minnesota dominated this contest. It got an early lead, kept the puck away from the Penguins and came away with a clean two points. They were hungry and they played like it.
-As we said before, trying to dissect this game is like trying to dissect a preseason game. We're just curious as to what was to gain from using Brandon Sutter as a second-line center instead of a third-line center. It would seem like using him on the third line tonight would allow him to get acclimated with Lee Stempniak or Brian Gibbons or whoever they want to use on the third line moving forward.
-Beyond that, there's not much else to evaluate from a team perspective. We'll focus on individuals.
-Paul Martin took a slight step back after Thursday's game. He was a tad sloppy with the puck and didn't seem nearly as sharp.
-Simon Despres didn't have a perfect game, but he was one of the few Penguins who gave an honest effort. He wasn't afraid to mix it up physically.
-Ditto Tanner Glass.
-Andew Ebbett looked competent on the NHL rink in his first game with the NHL Penguins since injuring his ankle. He had 13:22 of ice time on 17 shifts and one shot.
-Beau Bennett was one of the few Penguins who seemed to generate some consistent scoring chances. He was strong with the puck.
-Zatkoff didn't have a fair chance to win this game given the lackluster effort of his teammates in front of him but he needed to be better.
-Sidney Crosby went shotless for the 23rd time in his career. The Penguins needed more from him.
-Unlike the Penguins' stars, the Wild's stars carried their team. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville had their fingerprints all over this game. In addition to that, the Wild go contributions from a depth player like Cody McCormick.
-We're going to assume Ilya Bryzgalov has had more difficult shutouts in his life. He stole a few goals but the Penguins posed little danger to him.
-Shots on net were even, 20-20.
-The Penguins had a 45-35 lead in attempted shots.
-James Neal led the game with five shots.
-Koivu and Parise each led the Wild with three shots.
-Suter led the game with 27:43 of ice time.
-Martin led the Penguins with 23:09.
-The Wild had a 31-23 lead in faceoffs (57 percent).
-Koivu was 13 for 18 (68 percent).
-Sutter is 9 for 17 (53 percent).
-Rob Scuderi, Robert Bortuzzo, Despres, Marco Scandella, Koivu, Suter, Matt Cooke, Nate Prosser each lead the game with two blocked shots.
-This was Bryzgalov's second career shutout against the Penguins. As a member of the Coyotes, he made a 24 saves in a 3-0 win at the Mellon Arena, Feb. 7, 2009.
-The last time the Penguins were shut out in the state of Minnesota was a 2-0 shutout by Cesare Maniago and the North Stars, Feb. 20, 1972. He made 40 saves in the win at the Metropolitan Sports Center, AKA the Met Center.
-The last time the Penguins were shut out in Minnesota, Richard Nixon was visiting China.
-For whatever reason, the Penguins have a pretty rotten history against the Wild. All-time, they are 4-9-2 against the Wild with a point percentage of .333. That's the lowest point percentage against any opponent in franchise history.
-If there was a way to sum out this game:
If there's a way to sum up this game: pic.twitter.com/991lPKIecI— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 6, 2014