But Thursday night was, well, a little disappointing.
Richard Park scored his second goal of the season to lift the Wild to a 1-1 tie with the Penguins, but Minnesota couldn't convert an overtime power play after Pittsburgh was penalized for too many men on the ice with 1:38 left.
"I thought at a time in the third period, because of a lack of energy, if we get a point we'll be fine,'' said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team ended its first two-game losing streak and remains on top of the Northwest Division with 23 points.
"But after what I saw at the end, well, you're disappointed,'' Lemaire said. "A power play at the end, you expect to get chances -- maybe score a goal.''
Johan Hedberg, who gave up seven goals in his last two starts,
stopped 30 of Minnesota's shots. Marc Bergevin scored for the first
time in two seasons for Pittsburgh, which finished its four-game
road trip 0-2-1-1.
The Wild are unbeaten in six overtime games this season.
"They weren't creating enough chances down there, so we made a little switch,'' Pittsburgh coach Rick Kehoe said. "You've got to give them credit. They did a good job on penalty kills -- they took away our lanes.''
Fernandez, who had lost his last three starts after beginning the season 6-0, made 23 saves.
"I guess we have to take it positively,'' Fernandez said. "It's a little frustrating, but we've been talking about getting back on track or at least staying there. I think tonight is a good start.''
Minnesota kept Hedberg busy in the first, getting 12 shots off
before Pittsburgh even had two. Each team killed a double-minor
penalty, with the Penguins failing to convert their 4-minute power
play as Wild enforcer, Matt Johnson, sat in the box.
Johnson was called for charging and roughing after going high
and hard at defenseman Josef Melichar in the corner. Pittsburgh's
Jamie Pushor quickly retaliated by shoving Johnson in the back and
was whistled for roughing. Doubled over on his knees for a few
minutes, Melichar skated off and stayed in the game.
The Wild had their chances to win.
Wes Walz beat Dick Tarnstrom on a breakaway, but Hedberg rushed
out to block him between the circles midway through the first
Late in the second, Antti Laaksonen's shot hit the upper-right corner of the crossbar.
Jason Marshall nearly knocked in a loose puck in the crease in
the third period, but Hedberg kicked it away. And Walz was denied
on a 2-on-1 with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
Bergevin gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead on a one-timer from the blue
line that slid past a screened Fernandez's glove.
The Wild tied it less than 3 minutes later when Sergei Zholtok
found Filip Kuba slicing through the Penguins defense. Kuba was
turned away by Hedberg, but Park knocked in the rebound for his
second goal of the season.
"Sergei made a great play there,'' Park said. "Hopefully we
can build off this.''
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in town to introduce the
logo for the 2004 All-Star weekend, which will be held at the
Wild's Xcel Energy Center. ... Penguins LW Vladimir Vujtek missed
his sixth straight game because of a sore shoulder. ... Five of the
Wild's 10 opponents at home this season have been limited to just
one goal. ... The Wild are 2-1-1 against Pittsburgh. This was the
only meeting between the teams this regular season. ... Pittsburgh,
whose power play leads the league, went 0-for-3 with a man
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Xcel Energy Center Location: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Referees: Greg Kimmerly, Bill McCreary Linesmen: Greg Devorski, Dan Schachte
Attendance: 18,568 (102.8% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
No scoring this period
Marc Bergevin (1)
Assists: Alex Kovalev, Aleksey Morozov
Richard Park (2)
Assists: Filip Kuba, Sergei Zholtok