PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bryan Rust has no explanation for his career-best scoring run. He just wants to keep playing the same way.
Rust scored two more goals to help the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Thursday night.
“Sometimes that’s how hockey goes,” Rust said. “It just wants to make me shoot the puck more, I guess.”
Rust has at least one goal in five of his last six games, including the game-winner in Wednesday night’s 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals on the road.
He has eight goals and nine points in his last six games after collecting one goal and seven points in his first 29 games.
“It’s going in for him and we’re thrilled for him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think he’s confident now and I think he has a little bit of pressure off of him. It’s not like he wasn’t getting scoring chances in the first part of the season. He was. The puck just didn’t seem to go in the net for him and now it is.”
Rust put Pittsburgh ahead to stay when he scored his ninth of the season 8:12 into the third period.
Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel picked off a Greg Pateryn pass behind the net, and centered to the slot where Rust slipped a shot between Devan Dubnyk’s pads.
Pittsburgh has won four of five games and seven of 10 overall. The Penguins have earned points in eight of their last 10 games and 13 of the last 17 following a difficult November run in which they won just one of 10 games.
“It’s nice to string a few wins in a row against some pretty good teams,” Sullivan said. “Every point we get in the standings is important and we’re slowly but surely climbing. We’re becoming harder to play against.”
Casey DeSmith stopped 40 shots for his eighth win in 12 home starts. DeSmith has started nine of the last 11 games for Pittsburgh.
Jordan Greenway scored his sixth for the Wild, who have dropped three straight and five of seven. Dubnyk made 35 saves.
“It’s disappointing,” Dubnyk said. “We were in a really good spot going into the third period, and playing good hockey. So you want to find a way to win those games.”
Greenway opened the scoring 7:13 into the first when he converted a wrist shot from inside the left circle. But Rust answered for Pittsburgh, extending his goal streak to a career-best four games.
Dubnyk left his crease, but misplayed a puck behind the net to Guentzel, who quickly centered to Rust for the goal into an empty net.
“The first one, it doesn’t get much easier than that, and the second one, I came screaming down the middle and (Guentzel) found me,” Rust said.
NOTES: Dominik Simon returned to the Penguins’ lineup after missing eight games with a lower-body injury. Garrett Wilson was sent to the team’s minor league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. … Wild D Matt Dumba missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. … Penguins D Jamie Oleksiak was sidelined by a concussion. … Pateryn played in his 200th career game.
Wild: Host Dallas on Saturday.
Penguins: Visit Carolina on Saturday.