Wild’s seven-game winning streak snapped by Penguins in OT thriller

·4 min read
Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune/TNS

A comeback victory at Pittsburgh back in November, in which the Wild overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period after scoring with three seconds left, helped establish the resiliency that has defined the team's season.

That same moxie showed up for the rematch Thursday, but the Wild's rally fell short 4-3 in front of 18,978 at Xcel Energy Center to snap its seven-game win streak at the end of a franchise-long nine-game homestand with its first overtime loss.

With the point, the Wild is four ahead of No. 3 St. Louis for second place in the Central Division after losing only three times over its past 12 games (9-1-2).

"We've been doing that the whole year," center Frederick Gaudreau said. "Even though we're down, we know we can come back and we work hard for it."

NHL standings: Conference | Wild Card

The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin scored with 1 minute, 5 seconds to go in overtime after winger Kirill Kaprizov tied Marian Gaborik for the most points in a season in Wild history by delivering the equalizer in the third period.

By then, the Wild was missing two players: defenseman Jon Merrill and winger Matt Boldy both left because of upper-body injuries.

Coach Dean Evason said Merrill won't accompany the team on its upcoming four-game road trip, while the plan is for Boldy to travel.

"You've got to be willing to sacrifice your body, and every single guy on that bench recognizes that when it happens," said goalie Cam Talbot, who made 35 stops in his first loss since March 1 after winning a career-high eight consecutive starts. "We lost a couple guys tonight to that. That's just putting yourself before the team. That's what this team does best."

BOXSCORE: Pittsburgh 4, Wild 3 (OT)

The Wild was chasing early, with Rickard Rakell capitalizing on a deflection only 1:06 after the opening faceoff, but the Wild answered back before the period ended.

On the power play, Matt Dumba jabbed at the puck enough for it to barely trickle over the goal line at 10:51.

Not only was the goal Dumba's second in as many games, but it was the first power-play tally by a Wild defenseman this season.

Another early goal in the second put the Penguins back in front, this time a shot by Jake Guentzel off a rebound on the power play at 1:54. Pittsburgh finished 1-for-5, and the Wild was 1-for-4.

That lead for the Penguins doubled after Rakell buried a 2-on-1 pass from Sidney Crosby at 9:49.

Cue the Wild's comeback instincts.

"It would have been easy to fold at 3-1 for sure," Evason said. "Guys just kept doing the right things."

Only 14 seconds after having a Jordan Greenway goal disallowed because of a Pittsburgh challenge revealing the play as offside, Kevin Fiala passed to Gaudreau for a blistering one-timer that sailed by Casey DeSmith for Gaudreau's fourth point in his past four games. Fiala's helper pushed his point streak to five games.

Boldy also assisted on the goal, his second of the night, before leaving the game. But the rally persisted shorthanded.

Only 1:02 into the third, Kaprizov tied Gaborik at 83 points with his 38th goal of the season: a one-timer off a feed from Ryan Hartman that was his sixth goal during a five-game point streak.

Kaprizov also set a Wild record for most goals in a single month at 14, and his five-game goal streak is tied for his career high. Only Nino Niederreiter (2017-18) and Brian Rolston (2007-08) have gone on longer runs in Wild history (six games).

"It is impressive," Gaudreau said, "But at the same time, when you know the player, that's just what he does."

Unlike the 5-4 shootout win on Nov. 6, the Wild couldn't pass the Penguins after pulling even. Before Malkin jammed the puck in, Talbot had already fended off five shots in the extra frame. DeSmith finished with 28 saves.

But with 15 out of a possible 18 points secured from this stint in St. Paul, the Wild is leaving in a better position than it arrived in a few weeks ago.

"Those are all going to be huge games on this road trip," Talbot said. "We have to take the momentum from this homestand and take it on the road."