The handouts weren’t as blatant as the ones the Wild gifted the Penguins the last time these two squads squared off, but they still stung.
After a pair of wrong-way passes fueled a one-goal win for Pittsburgh less than two weeks ago, the Penguins were the beneficiary again Monday, using a double dose of puck luck to beat the Wild 3-2 in front of an announced 19,163 at Xcel Energy Center, two days after the Wild ended a five-game losing streak.
“It’s a frustrating theme of the way we don’t succeed sometimes,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Pittsburgh grabbed the lead and grew it on two fortuitous bounces.
With 21 seconds to go in the first period, winger Phil Kessel gobbled up a Sidney Crosby shot off the end boards and banked the puck off defenseman Ryan Suter’s stick blade and behind goalie Devan Dubnyk. And at 10:19 of the second, winger Riley Sheahan’s shot off the rush clipped winger Marcus Foligno’s stick before sailing top-shelf.
“It’s always frustrating when those find their way in,” said Dubnyk, who finished with 29 saves.
Considering the Wild has had enough trouble burying pucks into the opposition’s net, two own goals only made the team’s climb more difficult.
Winger Zach Parise’s team-leading 17th goal, a wrist shot after Parise walked in to the middle, moved the Wild within one at 15:55 of the third, but time ran out on the team’s rally. Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith made 31 stops.
“It’s too little too late,” Parise said.
The Wild has scored more than two goals just once in the past seven games, a stretch in which it has gone 1-5-1, but it opened the scoring just 5:27 into the first.
Captain Mikko Koivu converted on the power play when his shot from the slot handcuffed DeSmit — Koivu’s 59th career power-play goal, which is tied for the most in franchise history with Marian Gaborik. The goal broke a 14-game goal drought for Koivu and an 0-for-12 rut for the power play.
That was the Wild’s only opportunity with the man advantage, despite a few other plays that looked like they could merit calls; winger Mikael Granlund was hit from behind, winger Jason Zucker was high-sticked and Koivu was held up along the boards.
“I think they could have called a couple,” Boudreau said. “But I think coaches think that every night.”
Pittsburgh also received just one power play, and it, too, capitalized to pull even with the Wild.
With 4:17 left in the first, Crosby directed in a slick pass by Kessel through Suter’s legs.
Still, the Wild had plenty of chances, including a close call by winger Luke Kunin. He deflected a Parise shot past DeSmith, but the goal was immediately waved off because it was ruled the puck was batted in with a high stick.
“When you slow it down — and the refs can’t see it in slow motion — that where he hit the puck, it looked like it was underneath his shoulder,” Boudreau said. “I gotta believe that it was good. But when things aren’t going the way you want them to, those calls go against you.”
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon rolled a 2-on-1 pass from Granlund just wide. Eric Staal was denied from close in, and Charlie Coyle hit the post — all before Zucker had a few pucks stopped, defenseman Jonas Brodin’s backhand was kept out and rookie Jordan Greenway was foiled on a breakaway.
“We’re not converting,” Parise said. “That’s the story right now.”