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Crosby moves into 13th on NHL's all-time scoring list as Penguins overcome rally to edge Wild 4-3

Ireland Contracting Nightly Sports Call: Dec. 18, 2023
Ireland Contracting Nightly Sports Call: Dec. 18, 2023 12:18

The Pittsburgh Penguins went a month between power-play goals, a funk that sent them plummeting toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

They preached patience even as they searched for answers and more importantly, goals.

The goals are finally starting to come. The wins, too.

Pittsburgh's star-laden power play scored twice, including Sidney Crosby's flip from in close 6:20 into the third period to break a tie and the Penguins edged the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Monday night.

Crosby added an assist to move past Hall of Famer Mark Recchi and into 13th on the NHL's all-time scoring list as Pittsburgh won for the third time in four games. All three wins have come in games in which the Penguins have scored at least one power-play goal following their 0-for-37 stretch.

"It's tough when you go that long without scoring, it's kind of human nature to squeeze the stick a bit," Crosby said, who added an assist and now stands at 1,535 career points, four shy of Joe Thornton in 12th. "And now I think we're playing a little bit more (instead of thinking), which is nice."

Jake Guentzel scored his 14th goal for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Reilly Smith also scored, Valtteri Puustinen and Marcus Pettersson each added two assists and Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 24 shots as Pittsburgh rebounded from an ugly shutout loss in Toronto on Saturday.

"No one likes to go through that experience we went through in Toronto," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "It's a humbling experience and I'm glad we responded the right way."

Ryan Hartman, Jake Middleton and Vinni Lettieri scored for the Wild, who scored three times in less than 10 minutes across the second and third periods to rally from a 3-0 deficit and briefly pull even.

Filip Gustavsson, given the nod over former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in perhaps his final visit to Pittsburgh, made 26 saves. However, he couldn't stop Crosby's eventual game-winner as the Penguins beat Minnesota for the ninth time in their last 10 meetings.

"I don't know why we came out so weak today," Gustavsson said. "Didn't help when they got some power plays too. You have to restart after those ones. We were always on the back foot today."


When the schedule came out it looked like the visit by the Wild would be a chance for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made his NHL debut for Pittsburgh as a teenager and spent 13 seasons as part of the core group that led the franchise to three Stanley Cups, to make one final bow in Pittsburgh.

Instead, with the Wild facing a back-to-back with the Penguins and Bruins, Minnesota coach John Hynes gave the nod to Gustavsson. Fleury was relegated to getting some work in during warmups and then trying — and failing — to flip a couple of pucks over the net and into the crowd of fans who slammed their hands against the glass in appreciation of the franchise's all-time leader in most major goaltending categories.

The crowd chanted for Fleury relentlessly for most of the opening two periods and it seemed there was an outside chance it might get its wish when the Penguins controlled play for long stretches and found plenty of space to get the puck by Gustavsson.

"Who doesn't love Flower? He's had a great career," Hynes said. "He's been fantastic here, not only on the ice but off the ice. Not surprised."

When Malkin converted a 2-on-1 feed from Puustinen into an open net 3:34 into the second period, Pittsburgh appeared to be in full command.

It wasn't. Hartman and Middleton scored 2:26 apart late in the second period to get the Wild back in it and when Lettieri redirected Jon Merrill's flick from the point by Nedeljkovic 5:33 into the third, the game was tied.

For all of 47 seconds anyway, or as long as it took for Crosby to put the Penguins in front for good.


Wild: Visit Boston on Tuesday.

Penguins: Are off until Thursday when Metropolitan Division rival Carolina visits.



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