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Pens cruise against Wild, win sixth in a row

Dec 19, 2013, 10:16 PM EDT

maattagetty Getty Images

Over the years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have grown accustomed to asking other players to step up while key players miss time with injuries. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the team keeps chugging along despite significant contributors on the mend.

The Penguins won their sixth game in a row (and ninth consecutive game at home) as they handled the Minnesota Wild 5-2.

Pittsburgh enjoyed contributions from the usual suspects (two assists for Sidney Crosby, one goal apiece for Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis), yet the team’s lesser known defensemen also enjoyed great nights. Matt Niskanen scored a goal and an assist, but the real highlight was young blueliner Olli Maatta (pictured). He collected two assists and scored on an unlikely penalty shot:

It wasn’t such a festive evening for the Wild, however. Head coach Mike Yeo didn’t lay the blame merely at Niklas Backstrom‘s feet, bluntly stating that “We stunk,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. He wasn’t alone in that assessment.

“They were ready to play. We weren’t,” Mikko Koivu said. “We just need to be better, starting with myself.”

  1. allday420ap - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    No mention/video of Ballards awesome hip checks?

    • claudegirwho - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:44 PM

      Not when a bunch of 19 year olds man handled your team. The hits made no difference in the game.

    • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      they should show the video of him getting his ass kicked after both of them. reminded me of when crosby beat on him when he did it to malkin a few years ago. you would think he would learn by now not to bother doing it anymore, or at least learn how to fight if he’s going to continue to do it.

      • kopy - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        Or players could stop trying to fight every player that delivers a big hit, whether or not it’s legal. It’s a great way to stop an intense game.

      • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:02 AM

        considering he was going to the box for a penalty on the hit and the fight with neal occurred after the whistle blew for the penalty i’m not quite following how fighting caused the intense game to stop in that case…

      • hockey412 - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:37 AM

        Neal asked him if he wanted to go, and he agreed. Had he said no, the answer would have been ‘no’. I was actually happy to see Neal handle it that way (even though it took him off the PP) instead of retaliating in some other way.

      • tved12 - Dec 20, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        Thank you kopy, that’s exactly what I was thinking last night. Why is Ballard penalized when he throws a legal hit on Niskanen, then the guy on the receiving end attacks him? Apparently in todays NHL you can’t hit anybody, including defensemen…

      • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        he never got a penalty for hitting niskanen, what are you talking about? he got a clipping penalty on neal because he took him out at the knees (rule 44 in case you’ve never heard of it). he did not get a penalty for the same hit on kobasew earlier in the game against the boards because he got him above the knees.

  2. slickvb82 - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    Wild played horrible, Pens played well. Good win for good team!

  3. lowenni - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Wow. Maataa is really turning into a stud. It’s actually pretty incredible when you look at the depth of the Pens organization, especially on defense. To have that many top-level defensive prospects in their pipeline despite not having high draft picks is pretty impressive. As a Caps fan I have to admit it, but a year or two from now a Pens defense corps made up of Letang, Maataa, Pouilot, Domoulin, Martin, etc. is gonna be a force to reckon with backing up Crosby and Malkin.

    • lowenni - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:50 PM

      *hate to admit it

    • drone501 - Dec 20, 2013 at 4:21 AM

      you forgot john harrington

      • zico25 - Dec 20, 2013 at 8:32 AM

        I believe it’s Scott Harrington.

  4. pitpenguinsrulez - Dec 19, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    Great solid victory by the Pens tonight. Olli Maatta is going to be something special for years to come. It’s amazing to watch Crosby with his no look passes find guys going to the net who end up scoring.

    • joey4id - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:46 AM

      Would the Pens consider trading Letang in a year or two if Maatta continues his ways?

      • hockey412 - Dec 20, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        I get the feeling that Maatta might be groomed to take over for Martin. One thing is for sure, there are some decisions to be made in the future.

  5. endusersolutions2013 - Dec 19, 2013 at 11:23 PM

    Last year, as a Hawks fan, I was not concerned about the Pens due to their mediocre defense. A cup finals between them would be a lot closer than it would have been last year.

    One advantage the Pens is due to playing in the metro, and thus with an easier schedule than teams in every other division, they may well have the top seed at whatever level.

    • handsofsweed - Dec 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM

      True. It’s also true that the Pens are 6-2 vs the West right now.

    • bgrillz - Dec 20, 2013 at 8:40 AM

      Including a 1-0 loss to Colorado early, and a 2-1 loss to St. Louis.

    • dirt2013 - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      They play the teams in the Atlantic almost as much as their own division.Plus two games against every team out west.This isn’t like last years schedule at all.

    • joey4id - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:49 AM

      Can their improved d zone play be attributed to the arrival Jacques Martin? As a head coach his teams were known for their strong positional play.

      • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        i’d say that assessment would be fair and accurate. having scuderi back helps as well, both on the ice and in practice/locker room too.

  6. joey4id - Dec 20, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    How many teams in the NHL can be down 11 regular players and still play well enough to win? Not many. You’ve got to give credit to the organization’s ability to draft, and put together a framework allowing the AHL team to effectively feed players to the big team. There was a lot of synergy between Bylsma and Hynes to implement a system in the AHL which facilitates the adaptation from WB to Pit. The kids are playing very sound positional hockey. Not perfect, but sound. John Hynes must be attracting the attention of many NHL GMs

    • jpelle82 - Dec 20, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      just a matter of time before hynes gets his shot somewhere.

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