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Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin lead Pens to 4-2 victory over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Pittsburgh's young Penguins made quite a debut in the "State of Hockey."

Playing in Minnesota for the first time in their young careers, Evgeni Malkin scored twice and had an assist, and Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists in Pittsburgh's 4-2 victory over the wounded Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

Petr Sykora's power play goal - on a beautiful feed from Crosby in the slot - broke the tie with 9:55 to play, and Crosby broke free on a line change by Minnesota and sealed the win with his fifth goal of the season just over four minutes later.

Stephane Veilleux and Brian Rolston scored for the short-handed Wild, who lost at home for the first time this season and fell to 0-3-1 in their last four games after starting the season an NHL-best 7-0-1.

Pittsburgh caught the Wild at an opportune time, after a rash of groin injuries shelved Minnesota's top three players. Dynamic forwards Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra and No. 1 goalie Niklas Backstrom all missed the game.

Josh Harding made 23 saves for Minnesota, but a couple of unlucky bounces did him in against Pittsburgh's talented kids.

With the NHL's head-scratching unbalanced schedule, this was the first time Crosby and Malkin have played in front of fans in the Western Conference's Northwest Division in their careers.

Crosby looked forward to this game even before he was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005. "The Next One" starred for one season at prep powerhouse Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault in 2002-03, the same year the Wild made a stunning run to the Western Conference finals.

Crosby scored 72 goals in 57 games as a 15-year-old player for Shattuck that season and learned firsthand about the passion Minnesotans have for hockey.

As in most arenas he goes to these days, there were plenty of No. 87 sweaters in the seats, and the youngster received a nice ovation when he was introduced in the starting lineup before the game, a rarity at Xcel Energy Center, where the fans worship the Wild.

As it seems to have done for Crosby and Malkin throughout their young careers, the puck always seemed to bounce their way in the second period.

Crosby skated in on Harding's right side and looked to make a move to the front. But he lost the puck behind the net and it trickled right onto the stick of Malkin, who slipped the puck in on Harding's left side for an easy wraparound goal, his fourth tally this season.

Luck was on Pittsburgh's side again just 25 seconds later. Crosby camped out in front, and Ryan Malone's shot from the point glanced off Crosby's skate and onto Malkin's stick. Malkin had a wide-open net and hit it easily for a 2-1 lead.

Rolston tied it with 13:34 to go in the game when Mikko Koivu made a nice feed in front of the net.

Notes: Wild D Kim Johnsson bruised a leg in the second period and didn't return. ... Malone, who played at St. Cloud State University about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities, had two assists in his first game playing in Minnesota since he was in the Young Stars Game at the 2004 All-Star weekend in St. Paul.


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