ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Helped by hard work on the forecheck by linemates Zach Parise and Eric Staal to pry the puck loose, Charlie Coyle scored for Minnesota just two shifts and 40 seconds into the game.
That was as sure of a sign as any this was going to be a breakout game for the Wild’s stagnant attack.
Coyle scored twice in the first period to set the tone and Nino Niederreiter had two of Minnesota’s three goals on the power play on the way to a 6-2 rout of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
“There’s not a whole lot of pressure after that, you know? You can just play hockey, do the little things, play the right way and keep going like we did,” said Coyle, who leads the Wild with seven goals.
Parise also scored with the man advantage and Mikael Granlund added a goal to build 5-1 lead by the second intermission. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s career record against the Wild fell to 2-7, with 30 goals allowed in those nine all-time matchups.
“There’s a few I should have stopped,” Fleury said. “It’s frustrating.”
The Penguins put Fleury in some bad spots, though.
“The goals they got, they’re Grade-A scoring chances,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “The types of saves he had to make were high quality.”
Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust had goals for the Penguins, who were coming off a 6-1 win over the New York Rangers two days before. They smacked into a Minnesota team that was long overdue for an offensive outburst, with only 17 goals in its previous 10 games.
This was the most goals in 17 games since Oct. 18 by the Wild, who swept the season series from the Penguins. The Wild improved to 7-3 at home, outscoring opponents 30-17, and won their second straight game for the first time since Oct. 29.
“That confidence is gaining,” Staal said.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby arrived at the arena with an NHL-high 14 goals in only 14 games, plus 16 points in his first 12 matchups with Minnesota, but Devan Dubnyk and the Wild defense kept him quiet. Dubnyk made 34 saves and has given up just 15 goals in his last 12 games. The Wild have allowed a league-low 38 goals.
“It’s the same thing I see from them almost every night,” Dubnyk said, adding: “It’s fun to play back there with those guys.”
The Wild put the exclamation point on their first period, though, when Kris Letang, perhaps believing a teammate was there, blindly sent a soft pass into the right circle for Coyle to intercept and turn into his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
Late in the second period after Ian Cole went to the penalty box for roughing, Parise scored for the second straight game by keeping the puck away from Letang as the defenseman slid across the slot and snapping a shot into the upper right corner as he fell forward. Granlund’s goal was another highlight-grabber, with a last-second pullback of the puck from Cole before he sent it into the net.
The awakening of Parise, who has missed seven games because of injury and illness, has been a welcomed spark this week for the Wild.
“This is what I expect,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He creates.”
Eight of Minnesota’s first 10 games this month were decided by one goal, with the other two stretched only by an empty-netter. The Wild stretched their streak to a season-long four straight games with a power-play goal, and this was their first game all season with multiple scores on the man advantage.
The Penguins, meanwhile, haven’t been playing like the defending Stanley Cup champions lately. They haven’t won consecutive games since Nov. 5-8.
“You have to find your identity and make sure you able to consistently bring the same effort,” Crosby said. “There’s no excuse.”
NOTES: Wild defenseman Christian Folin left in the first period with a lower-body injury that sent him for an MRI test, and Boudreau said he could miss several games. … Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel, whose NHL career is only three games old, played in his home state about 10 miles from where he grew up. His father, Mike Guentzel, is an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, where Kessel played under him in the 2005-06 season…. The Wild have played the day after Thanksgiving in every season of the franchise’s existence that wasn’t affected by a lockout, with only one game on the road. They’re 9-5-1 overall.
Pittsburgh: Returns home to face New Jersey on Friday night.
Minnesota: Hits the road for five straight games, starting with St. Louis on Saturday night.