PITTSBURGH – One game after Evgeni Malkin got the city of Pittsburgh all into a lather by saying the slumping Penguins were “mad at each other,” the Russian dynamo who since said the comments were lost in translation put on a show against the Wild.
After being no-shows this past weekend during consecutive losses, the inexplicably-low-scoring Penguins were itching to break out and did during a 4-3 victory over the banged-up Wild on Tuesday night.
Malkin, the two-time NHL leading scorer and one-time MVP, scored two goals and added two assists as the Wild, 1-1-1 on a road trip that ends Thursday in Boston, turned into slump busters.
The game continued a trend of subpar starts for the Wild. The Wild, 3-3-3 on the road, has yet to have a lead in regulation during this road trip.
“You keep having starts like that, it’s tough to be chasing the game,” coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s been a few games where it’s taken us a little while to get her going.”
In a game that was questionably officiated and had Devan Dubnyk yet again confused as to the definition of goalie interference, the Wild responded to an early Penguins goal with Mikael Granlund’s tying score before watching Pittsburgh jump to a 4-1 lead.
Jared Spurgeon’s late second-period power-play goal and Mikko Koivu’s third-period 5-on-3 goal made it a game, but in the end, the Wild’s penalty kill and turnovers in the first 40 minutes did in the visitors.
Facing a talented team that somehow entered with the NHL’s fourth-fewest goals per game and the league’s worst power play, the Wild gave up two power-play goals.
The Wild, which had the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill last season, slipped to 29th. It has allowed 11 goals on 43 opposing power plays this season (74.5 percent success rate) and has allowed at least one power-play goal in nine of 17 games and five in the past four games.
Yeo said the Wild has taken too many penalties lately, but, “We’re missing some penalty killers [Justin Fontaine, Erik Haula and Zach Parise], and I think we’re feeling that. So we’ve got to find a way to step up. We’re not aggressive as we normally are.”
With the Wild trailing 2-1 after Beau Bennett’s power-play goal, referee TJ Luxmore called Chris Porter for what the forward called “a phantom high-stick” on Kris Letang. Video replays showed Penguins teammate Olli Maatta actually clipped Letang.
On the ensuing power play, Penguins net-crasher Patric Hornqvist fell into Dubnyk on a Letang shot, then jabbed his stick between Dubnyk’s legs. As the play worked back up top, Dubnyk looked for the puck, at the ref, then flipped to get to his feet just as Malkin received a pass from Letang.
Malkin didn’t miss the one-timer, making it 3-1.
Yeo challenged, saying there was goalie interference, but after a long review, Luxmore ruled good goal.
Dubnyk called it a “joke,” saying Hornqvist was digging for pucks all game and his interference directly caused the goal.
“I mean, even the explanations don’t make sense,” Dubnyk said. “[Luxmore] tells me that the first play would have been no goal because it’s goalie interference, yet the only reason the goal happens was because of the first play.
“I don’t understand it, and it changes the game. … It’s disappointing because we’re comfortable in a 2-1 hockey game and that opens it up a little bit. It’s just confusing.”