Young Penguins Impressive In Minny Debut

Wednesday, October 31st 2007, 7:22 am
By: News On 6

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Sidney Crosby could feel a big game coming for Pittsburgh's brilliant young top line.

THIS big against THIS team? Even Crosby's not that good.

Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Malone combined for three goals and six assists in a 4-2 victory over the defensive-minded Minnesota Wild in a homecoming of sorts for ``The Next One.''

``I don't think you expect it against this team,'' Crosby said of the Wild, who have given up fewer goals than all but five teams in the league. ``We know we probably had a game where we were due to open up a bit.''

Playing in Minnesota for the first time in their young careers, Crosby had a goal and three assists, Malkin scored twice and had an assist and Malone added two assists for Pittsburgh.

It was a triumphant return for Crosby, who starred at prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault back in 2002-03, the same season that the Wild made a stunning run to the Western Conference finals.

Crosby attended the Wild's home playoff games that season, getting a firsthand feel for the passion these fans have for hockey.

But because of the NHL's head-scratching unbalanced schedule, it took three seasons to get the NHL's brightest superstar in front of arguably the league's most fervent fan base.

``It's fun to be able to come here and play,'' said Crosby, who scored 72 goals and 162 points in 57 games for Shattuck as a 15-year-old player. ``No matter how the night ended up, it's just nice because I was here before, watching games and dreamed of one day playing in the NHL and playing here. It's really a bonus to come out of here with a win.''

In the other NHL games Tuesday night, it was : Atlanta 3, Montreal 2 in a shootout; Phoenix 2, St. Louis 1; Detroit 2, Edmonton 1; and Calgary 5, Nashville 1.

Crosby assisted on the Penguins first three goals of the game and then scored on a breakaway to ice it with just over 5 1/2 minutes to go.

Stephane Veilleux and Brian Rolston scored for the short-handed Wild, who lost at home for the first time this season and fell to 0-3-1 in their last four games after starting the season an NHL-best 7-0-1.

``They're good players. There's no question about that,'' Rolston said of Pittsburgh's hot young line. ``I guess they figured in on every one of their goals, so we didn't do a good job on that line.''

The Wild played without dynamic forwards Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra and No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who all missed the game with groin injuries. Minnesota sorely missed all three against the talented Penguins, falling to 0-3-1 in its last four games after a league-best 7-0-1 start.

``It's not a time for us to be talking about who's out of our lineup,'' Rolston said. ``We just have to play with the guys we have in here. Obviously it's a huge hole, two of our top scorers.''

Malkin's two goals came after he pounced on opportune bounces off of Crosby, who also scored on a miscommunicated line change in the final period for the back breaker.

``It seems like that's been our luck lately,'' Harding said. ``And the only way you can get though that is hard work. It obviously is very frustrating.''

The scary thing for the rest of the league is that Crosby only sees things getting better for him and his Russian teammate Malkin.

``We're still trying learn to communicate better, but once we do that, we'll improve,'' Crosby said. ``Certainly hockey, in a way, is a universal language sometimes. We just try to read each other. I think the more we play, the better we're going to get.''

Thrashers 3, Canadiens 2, SO

Ilya Kovalchuk scored the decisive goal in the shootout to lift visiting Atlanta.

Kovalchuk put a shot past Montreal rookie Carey Price on Atlanta's third attempt, and Thrashers goalie Johan Hedberg forced Alex Kovalev to shoot off the post.

Chris Higgins scored Montreal's second power-play goal of the game with 1:58 remaining in regulation to tie it at 2. Kovalev, who assisted on the goal, also scored in the second. Price made 31 saves in his Bell Centre debut.

Eric Perrin and Vyacheslav Kozlov scored 57 seconds apart late in the second period to give the Thrashers a 2-1 lead. Hedberg finished with 31 saves for Atlanta, which won consecutive games for the first time this season.

Coyotes 2, Blues 1

Fredrik Sjostrom scored on a wraparound with 2:58 to go, capping a strong third period for visiting Phoenix.

Michael Zigomanis tied it with about 7 1/2 minutes to go on a breakaway. The Coyotes entered the game in a 2-6 slump since beating the Blues at home in the opener on Oct. 4, but have won five straight in St. Louis.

Brad Boyes scored his ninth goal in 10 games for the Blues, who last defeated the Coyotes at home on Feb. 16, 2004.

Mikael Tellqvist made 24 saves for the Coyotes, the biggest on Lee Stempniak's penalty shot late in the second period.

Red Wings 2, Oilers 1

Valtteri Filppula scored with just 24.4 seconds left to give visiting Detroit its sixth straight win.

After a back-and-forth third period, Filppula fought off Dick Tarnstrom and beat Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson high to the glove side.

Henrik Zetterberg's second-period goal gave him at least one point in each of Detroit's 13 games this season.

Steve Staios scored for Edmonton.

Flames 5, Predators 1

Jarome Iginla scored twice and Miikka Kiprusoff made 39 saves for host Calgary. Matthew Lombardi, Kristian Huselius and Eric Nystrom also scored for the Flames.

Alexander Radulov had the Predators' goal.