PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Few goalies have shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins as often as Jose Theodore. Facing them without Sidney Crosby made this win that much easier.
Theodore made 26 saves for his 30th career shutout as the Minnesota Wild shut down the Crosby-less Penguins 4-0 on Saturday night.
Theodore improved 19-4-3 all-time against Pittsburgh.
Theodore, 17-1-3 in his past 21 starts against Pittsburgh, has won each of the past four games in leading Minnesota to a season-high winning streak while starter Niklas Backstrom is out with a groin injury.
“Right now, we are rolling with him,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “He is on top of his game.”
Chuck Kobasew, Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild, who is on a 8-2-1 stretch and has won three straight road games for the first time since the start of the 2008-09 season.
The Wild are 9-2-1 against the Penguins. Minnesota has won six of seven games in Pittsburgh, having never allowed more than two goals in a game there.
Crosby missed his second straight game because of a concussion, and the NHL’s leading scorer isn’t expected to play Monday against Boston or Wednesday at Montreal. Pittsburgh is 21-12-8 in games Crosby has sat out and has won only one of seven games this season in which he didn’t play or didn’t record a point.
“Obviously we miss the best player in the game right now,” Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. “But I think we have a pretty deep team. We’ve just got to chip in, me included.”
Theodore saved a shot from in close by Evgeni Malkin five minutes in. He also made a nice stop on Arron Asham early in the third. But without Crosby, Pittsburgh didn’t test him much beyond that and was shut out for the second time this season.
“I sensed a frustrated group over on the other side,” Richards said.
The Penguins have lost four of five and are 5-5-2 since having a 12-game winning streak snapped.
“It happens to every team, I guess,” defenceman Kris Letang said. “We just haven’t played our game since the first loss after our streak. We just need to get back to our game and work harder and play better.
“We didn’t create anything tonight,” Letang added. “It’s tough to score goals when you don’t create.”
According to STATS LLC., since New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur entered the NHL in 1991-92, he is the only goalie with more wins against the Penguins (40) than Theodore. Only Patrick Lalime (2.27) has a better goals-against average in that time against Pittsburgh than Theodore’s 2.32.
“It’s just one of those things; you know there’s buildings and teams you have more success against,” said Theodore, whose shutout was his first of the season.
“It’s just a team that, maybe playing against (Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux) when I was in Montreal was always a big challenge for me, and the rivalry when I was with Washington, it was always a big game,” he said. “So I don’t know, it’s just obviously fun to see.”
Kobasew gave the Wild a 1-0 lead with 6:37 left in the first when a shot by Mikko Koivu deflected off his body and into the net while he stood just in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Havlat made it 2-0 just 4:43 later. Brodziak won a faceoff in the Penguins end, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard took a shot. Havlat beat the Pittsburgh defence to the rebound and fired a shot between Fleury’s legs.
Pittsburgh defenceman Zbynek Michalek hit the post with a slapshot from the point three minutes into the third, and Asham was denied by Theodore on an open shot from the right circle three minutes later.
Seconds after that, Clutterbuck beat Fleury with a similar shot from a similar spot on the opposite end of the ice. Clutterbuck had struggled off the ice after blocking a Paul Martin shot off his calf later in the second period.
The Penguins pulled Fleury during a 4-on-4 situation with 3:20 to play. Soon after the faceoff in the Wild zone, Brodziak iced the game when he flipped a puck from his own end that slowly trickled into the empty net to make it 4-0 with 2:59 left.
“We’re playing so well, boxing out so I can see the puck, and when you can see those pucks, you can control rebounds so there’s no second shots,” Theodore said. “Right now we’re all in sync in our own zone, from the defence and the goalie to the forwards.”
NOTES: It was the first shutout at new Consol Energy Center. … The Penguins lost in regulation for only the third time in 16 home games. … The Wild have not allowed a power-play goal in five games.