It was the top two teams in the NHL as the best in the west matched up against the beast of the east in Pittsburgh tonight. Sadly the beast couldn't be tamed by the Stars as a former friend turned foe - James Neal potted two power play goals and the Penguins special teams and tenacious forecheck not to mention a suffocating defense when the Stars did manage to enter the offensive zone were way too much for the Stars to handle as Dallas drops a 3-1 loss to the Penguins.
It was a frustrating night for the Stars as the Penguins controlled play pretty much from opening puck drop. Eric Nystrom did get the Stars off to a flying start putting the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury after taking a super slick behind-the-back pass from Radek Dvorak off the corner boards.
That my friends is where the good news ended for the Stars.
In addition to being virtually out everything'ed by the Pens tonight, Mark Fistric left the game in the second period after he took a deflected puck to the throat area but did return in the third. Alex Goligoski left after the first period with the ever popular "upper-body injury" and did not come back. No word on how severe the injury may be but it's likely the Stars may have to call up someone from the baby Stars in short order for tomorrow night's game against Detroit.
Overall a tough night that brings the Stars back down to earth a little bit, but as the saying goes "you can't win them all."
After the jump we look at a few more details of tonight's game.
Special Teams Report : In short, special teams play did the Stars in as the Penguins were able to capitalize on two of five power play chances. In the case of both Penguins power play goals they actually came seconds after a previous goal had been disallowed. In the second period a Penguins goal was waved off after the official judged that Kunitz deflected the puck with a high stick while in the third period another goal was waved off after Kunitz skated directly into the crease and bumped into Kari Lehtonen. As for the Stars power play, they didn't get many chances to work only being on the job twice and didn't score on either of them.
Neal Was Good But : Would you believe that Matt Niskanen was actually credited with more shots on goal with five compared to Neal's four? Yeah I know, that is kinda messed up.
Taking A Page Out Of The Stars Hit-Book : The Penguins out hit the Stars 23 to 12 and a lot of that was from the Pens forecheck as the Stars were not being given much room to do anything with the puck in their own zone.
Other Numbers : The Stars were at least still blocking shots as the racked up 15 in this game. (Fistric by the way wasn't credited with a block shot which almost seems like insult to injury although the original shot may have been ruled a pass attempt) The Stars also missed the net a total of 17 times which could be attributed to the fact the Stars were not getting very many clean or open looks in the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So How About Those Refs Huh? : Uhhhh, ya know what? No comment.
Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - PIT - James Neal
2 - PIT - Evgeni Malkin
3 - PIT - Matt Cooke
16:08 - DAL - Nystrom (5) Assists: Dvorak (6), Fiddler (4)
17:56 - PIT PP - Neal (10) Assists: Kunitz (4), Sullivan (6)
7:19 - PIT PP - Neal (11) Assists: Malkin (7), Letang (13)
9:28 - PIT PS - Cooke (5)