ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Pascal Dupuis had a short-handed goal and an assist, James Neal scored for the sixth time this season and the depleted Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal also got goals and Matt Cooke had two assists for the Penguins, who were winless in their previous three games. They have already played eight times in the first 13 days of the season, improving to 4-2-2.
Cal Clutterbuck had a short-handed goal and Guillaume Latendresse scored for the first time in almost an entire calendar year, but the Wild didn’t do much against backup goalie Brent Johnson and fell to 2-2-2. Their four-game winning streak against the Penguins ended.
Pittsburgh killed all five Minnesota power plays and is 20 for 20 in those situations on the road. The Penguins have allowed only one power-play goal this season.
The Wild, trying to get their offense going, moved Pierre-Marc Bouchard onto the first line with Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu, moving Devin Setoguchi down. In the last five games, Heatley, Koivu and Setoguchi have struggled — with just one goal among them.
The Penguins learned a few hours before faceoff they would be without defenseman Kris Letang, who received a two-game suspension from the NHL for a boarding penalty in Winnipeg on Monday, a hit from behind the league is cracking down on.
At this point, what was one more absence for coach Dan Bylsma to fill? Stars Sidney Crosby (concussion recovery) and Evgeni Malkin (sore knee) were back in Pittsburgh, along with defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower-body injury) and wing Dustin Jeffrey (knee surgery recovery), at various stages of their rehabilitation. Plus, center Tyler Kennedy missed his second straight game due to post-concussion symptoms.
Staal has helped keep the first line intact. Neal has been remarkably productive, too, bringing his goal total to 19 in 31 games over the last three Octobers.
Kunitz scored 46 seconds into the second period when he got his stick on Greg Zanon’s clearing attempt and turned a give-and-go pass from Dupuis into his first goal of the season.
After Brad Staubitz caught Joe Vitale in the face with a high stick, drawing a four-minute double-minor, Staal used the power play to put Pittsburgh up 2-0. Niklas Backstrom couldn’t corral the rebound of Zybnek Michalek’s slap shot, Matt Cooke poked it away and Staal made a nifty pivot move near the crease to find the loose puck and deposit it in the open net.
Vitale left the ice for treatment but returned in the third period. Defenseman Brian Strait, who was brought up from the minors earlier Tuesday, hobbled off with an injury just before Vitale was hurt, however, and didn’t come back. Strait took hard contact in the corner.
During the extended penalty kill Koivu pried the puck loose from former teammate Dupuis to fuel a 2-on-1 and shielded Clutterbuck from defenseman Paul Martin with a football-style block to set up the short-handed goal.
The Penguins added to the lead early in the third period, when Neal took possession at the blue line on a turnover by Marco Scandella and zoomed along the wing to zip a shot between Backstrom’s pads.
NOTES: Announced attendance was 17,297, but there were many more vacant seats than that. The blaze orange hunting hat giveaway made it easier to spot the empties. … Martin and fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen are both Minnesota natives. Dupuis, Michalek and Richard Park are former Wild players now with the Penguins. … Wild RW Nick Johnson, waived by the Penguins last month, was a healthy scratch. … Dupuis has three goals and three assists in five career games against the Wild. … The Penguins are 4-0-1 when leading after two periods. They have outscored opponents 11-4 in the second period this season.
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