ST. PAUL — Just four games into the season, injuries have decimated the top lines for the Pittsburgh Penguins as Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk and Bryan Rust have all missed time.
The Penguins still have Sidney Crosby, and a trio of callups helped pick up the load on Saturday.
Crosby had a goal and assist, Adam Johnson and Sam Lafferty each scored his first career goal, and the short-handed Penguins held on to beat the winless Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night.
Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang, Joseph Blandisi and Jake Guentzel also scored in Pittsburgh’s first road game of the season. Matt Murray stopped 29 shots for the Penguins, who scored four times in the second period.
“That’s the only way you win is with everyone contributing,” Crosby said. “I think with those guys, just the way they skate and with how fast they are on the forecheck, and what they’re able to do that way, they’re going to create chances just by that. I think with every game they’ll get more and more comfortable and you could see tonight, they got some huge goals for us.”
Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk gave up five goals on 23 shots and was pulled midway through the second period. Alex Stalock made seven saves in relief.
Jason Zucker, Jared Spurgeon, Brad Hunt and Luke Kunin scored for the Wild, who lost their home opener and fell to 0-4-0.
“Yeah, it is frustrating right now, especially start of the season,” Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu said. “I think you always want that first one, obviously, as soon as you can. Things are not going our way right now. We can be here and whine about it, but you got to go forward.”
Crosby continued his success against Minnesota — increasing his total to 23 points in 18 career games against the Wild — but Pittsburgh got support throughout the lineup while playing without four key forwards.
Malkin and Bjugstad each missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. Malkin was placed on long-term injured reserve. Rust hasn’t played this season with upper-body injury and Galchenyuk missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
The four combined for 72 goals and 102 assists last season.
After breaking out for seven goals in the last game played by Malkin and Bjugstad, the Penguins had scored three goals in the previous two games. The injuries forced the callups of Johnson, Lafferty and Blandisi.
The three combined for three goals on Saturday while skating on the fourth line.
“I think these guys, they’ve shown that they can come in and have an impact on the game,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said, noting the fourth line defended well and sustained momentum on the forecheck. “When you can have the trust in those guys that you can put them in those situations, it can give us an opportunity to use Crosby’s line for example, in an advantageous situation offensively.”
Johnson started a Penguins surge later in the period as they scored three times in 2:28.
Guentzel scored on the power-play for a 6-2 lead midway through the third before Minnesota scored twice in 21 seconds on goals from Hunt and Kunin.
“I think the formula has been the same every game,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They score three goals in 2 1/2 minutes … It’s like we get a woe is me attitude. We’re down instead of picking up our shoes like we did the last five minutes and saying let’s go get them. Until we learn how to quit feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s not going to work.”
NOTES: Minnesota fell to 14-1-4 in home openers in franchise history. They entered the game first in league history in point percentage in home openers. … The Wild honored the National Anthem singer for the Minnesota North Stars, Jim Bowers, before the game. Bowers died in the offseason and the team used a video rendition of Bowers signing the anthem on Saturday. Minnesota’s new executive advisor, Mike Modano, did the customary “Let’s play hockey” call before the game. … Murray won his 100th career regular season game, becoming the fourth goaltender in franchise history to reach the mark. Murray is the quickest of the four, hitting the milestone in just his 166th career appearance. Only six goaltenders have reached the mark quicker in the post-expansion era. … The Wild play six of their first seven and 17 of 26 games on the road this season. The nine home games in October and November are the fewest in franchise history.
Penguins: At Winnipeg on Sunday.
Wild: At Ottawa on Monday.