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PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists in his return from core muscle surgery, and the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Minnesota Wild 7-3 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday.
The center missed 28 games and last played against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 9 before having surgery Nov. 14. The Penguins were 18-6-4 without Crosby, who has 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 18 games.
“It was good,” Crosby said. “It helps when you get some power plays early. Still a couple shifts that I feel like were a little tough, but as far as rhythm, it helps to get on the power play early and get your feet under you a bit. Team played well.”
[WATCH: All Wild vs. Penguins highlights]
Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist, and Tristan Jarry made 26 saves for the Penguins (29-12-5), who have won four games in a row.
Zach Parise had two goals, and Marcus Foligno scored for the fifth time in five games for the Wild (20-20-6), who have lost four straight (0-3-1). Devan Dubnyk made 22 saves.
“We’ve got to just come to work tomorrow, forget this and let’s get back at it,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “This is what we did early on in the year, is we said ‘Woe is me’ on our mistakes and then it goes for a big slide. We have to end the slide now, no matter who we’re playing.”
Malkin put Pittsburgh ahead 1-0 with a power-play goal at 7:57 of the first period.
Jared McCann made it 2-0 at 17:57. John Marino found Dominik Simon in the right face-off circle, and McCann redirected a pass from Simon in the crease.
Bryan Rust extended the lead to 3-0 with a snap shot from the slot at 14:04 of the second period off a drop pass by Malkin.
Malkin made it 4-0 with a shot off the stick of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter on the power play at 15:05.
Crosby had the secondary assist on each of Malkin’s goals.
“[Crosby] is captain. We know how important [he is],” Malkin said. “He’s like our leader. He’s like a great player, great teammate. You see tonight, we’re so much better with him.”
Parise scored on a wrist shot from the left circle to cut it to 4-1 at 17:17.
Foligno tucked a shot around Jarry’s right pad to make it 4-2 at 2:15 of the third period.
“Our start was fine,” Foligno said. “We didn’t really give them too many chances. They capitalized on the chances we gave them, capitalized on our mistakes. Those were our mental, kind of, blips. That’s something that we have to learn to play a full 60 (minutes), but just start games and be mentally ready. It just seemed like we were shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Crosby scored on a backhand to make it 5-2 at 7:41 before passing off the back of the Wild net to himself, working around Minnesota forward Ryan Donato and feeding Simon, who made it 6-2 at 8:20.
Alex Galchenyuk extended the lead to 7-2 with 3:03 remaining.
Parise scored on the power play with 11 seconds left for the 7-3 final.
They said it
“Their puck support all over the ice was crazy. It’s like they always had three guys on the puck offensively and defensively. They make small little short passes up the ice together. They come at you 100 mph. That made it really tough.” — Wild forward Zach Parise
“[Crosby] works so hard. His fitness level is so good. It’s pretty difficult to simulate the intensity of NHL game situations, and I’m sure that was an adjustment for him, but it sure didn’t appear to be an adjustment for him [to] the rest of us, I think.” — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan
Need to know
Crosby returned after missing at least 20 games for the fourth time in his NHL career. He has had at least one point in each of those four games and has had four points twice; he had two goals and two assists against the New York Islanders on Nov. 21, 2011. … Penguins defenseman Kris Letang had an assist on Malkin’s second goal, giving him 400 in the NHL. … The Penguins reassigned forward Joseph Blandisi to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Tuesday with Crosby returning. … The Wild played with 13 forwards and five defensemen after defenseman Greg Pateryn was removed from the bench before the game began. He was expected to play but was listed as a scratch. Donato was not scratched as intended and played 4:57 after taking his first shift late in the second period.
Wild: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN)
Penguins: At the Boston Bruins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NESN, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)