PITTSBURGH – Marian Gaborik stole the puck from Pittsburgh forward Shane Endicott and scored barely a minute into the game, setting the tone for the Minnesota Wild’s 5-0 rout Thursday night that ran the Penguins’ losing streak to six games in their latest contest without Mario Lemieux.

Alexandre Daigle, a former Penguins player, ended a 14-game stretch without a goal by scoring twice and Wes Walz and Brian Rolston also scored for the Wild, which had lost four in a row and five of six.

The Wild were held to seven goals while losing their previous five road games, but they dominated a Penguins team that reached a new low in effort and execution during a season that has been a major disappointment almost since opening night.

The fans noticed, too, booing any scoreboard image of coach Eddie Olczyk as the Penguins were outshot 17-5 in a first period in which they were clearly dominated by the Wild despite being down by only one goal. The Penguins – last in the Eastern Conference – didn’t draw a single penalty in losing their 21st in 28 games, with six losses in overtime.

The Penguins seemingly should have gotten an emotional lift from the news that owner-captain Lemieux’s heart scare apparently wasn’t life-threatening. Lemieux was hospitalized Wednesday with a racing heartbeat, but was released Thursday after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition commonly treated with medication.

Instead, the Penguins produced their worst game of an already bad season, an effort that nearly emptied Mellon Arena long before the end as the 14,627 fans scurried to beat the city’s first snowstorm of the season.

With goalie Marc-Andre Fleury held out with an intestinal problem, Jocelyn Thibault (1-8-2) made his first start in net since the Penguins cleared him through waivers. He didn’t play badly in the first period despite the Wild’s big advantage in shots, having no chance on Gaborik’s goal, but ended up allowing five goals on 32 shots.

Daigle’s first goal came when Kyle Wanvig raced to a loose puck along the goal line and fed it to Daigle in the left circle for a one-timer. Walz’s goal came not long after when the Penguins couldn’t clear the puck from in front of their net and Walz tipped it his fourth.

The Penguins had only 11 shots through two periods, a remarkably low total for a team that includes proven scorers such as John LeClair and Mark Recchi, and rookie star Sidney Crosby. Crosby was the only Penguins player who showed much jump in the first two periods, but went scoreless for the fourth time in five games.

Wild goalie Manny Fernandez made 22 saves to improve to 8-3-3 with his first shutout since March 18, 2004, at Boston.

Notes: Daigle had one goal all season before Thursday. … The Wild are 5-1-1 against Pittsburgh in their brief history. … Olczyk missed the morning skate with what the team said was the stomach flu. … Pittsburgh might have had a reason for not taking any penalties: The Penguins were 2-of-32 on the power play while losing their previous five.

AP-ES-12-08-05 2225EST


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