Coming off of a victory on Thursday night, the Dallas Stars played host to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday afternoon. The Penguins are arguably the hottest team in the NHL, having won ten straight games. The Stars were rusty in their first game back after the holiday pause and ensuing COVID-19 outbreak. Even with that level of adversity sprinkled into the Stars season, Dallas was sporting a 6-1-1 record against the top teams in the league and looking to push that mark even further.
The first five minutes of the opening period elapsed at a frenetic pace with both teams trying to set the pace early on. The Penguins would find an early advantage in offensive zone time and shots, but most of their offense was kept to the perimeter of the rink. While the Stars accomplished the mission of keeping the scoring areas locked down, the Penguins would find the first goal of the game off of a perfect wrist shot by Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin took a nice pass from Kris Letang, traversed the blue line to walk down the half wall with plenty of space to pick his spot on Jake Oettinger.
Almost immediately after the first goal of the game the Penguins sent a harmless looking puck towards the Stars net that found the stick of Kasperi Kapanen. Again the Stars failed to seal off the half wall and allowed the Penguins to muck up the net-front. The insurance goal for the Penguins punctuated a stretch in the game where the Stars lost their speed and sagged.
Following the quick punches by the Penguins the Stars attempted to find their team game, spending more time in the Pittsburgh offensive zone. Dallas also managed to improve on the dot, which had been a problem that lingered over from Thursday night. However, the Stars transition game was noticeably lacking in comparison to a Penguins team that still looked cleaner in all zones.
Dallas 7 Pittsburgh 11
Dallas 0 Pittsburgh 2
Trying to follow-up an inconsistent opening frame, the Stars’ start was less than ideal in the second period when Jani Hakanpaa took an early interference penalty. The Penguins would hold possession in the Stars zone for nearly the entirety of the power-play but Oettinger and the Stars penalty kill were equal to the task. However, the first five minutes did little to change the fact that the Stars were still a step behind the Penguins. Dallas was unable to put much together to knock the Penguins out of their structure or challenge Tristian Jarry.
As the period progressed the Penguins would continue to generate dangerous chances with their low-to-high game. The best example came off of a great pass by Sidney Crosby to the Penguins point, which turned into a shot deflection off of the stick of Evan Rodrigues. The puck beat Oettinger but clanked off of the pipe, Life would be injected into the game when the Stars came close on an Alexander Radulov chance in tight. However, the main event was a physical altercation between Radulov and Penguins defenseman Mark Friedman. The matching minors forced the game into 4 on 4 action.
Following the 4-on-4 sequence, Dallas would earn a power play when Teddy Blueger took a cross checking minor. The Stars nearly earned their first goal of the game when Alexander Radulov threw a puck right through the legs of Jarry. Unfortunately for the Stars the power play would be cut short when John Klingberg took an interference penalty, The Stars would harmlessly kill off the Penguins power play, making the penalty a mute point.
The Stars would finally settle into the hockey game and begin to drive the pace of the game as the second period ticked on. The complexion of the game would take on a new shade when Denis Gurianov scored to cut the Penguins lead in half. Gurianov took a loose puck in the slot and ripped a wrist shot past a hoard of bodies and past Jarry.
Dallas 17 Pittsburgh 21
Dallas 1 Pittsburgh 2
At the start of the final frame the Stars were able to carry over their strong play from the late stages of the second period. Jacob Peterson walked in with a nice rush and snapped a strong shot on net that almost handcuffed Jarry. Overall, the game was wide open as both teams were able to hit the neutral zone with plenty of speed on a fresh sheet. The Stars came oh-so-close to tying the game when the line of Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jason Robertson battled for extended zone time and had the Penguins swimming in their own end. Pavelski had a prime chance off of a Hintz rebound, but the big Jarry was able to slide across and cut off the angle.
Dallas would follow up their strong string of shifts with a mess of a sequence when they turned the puck over repeatedly to the likes of Rodrigues and Crosby. Finally the Stars sloppy play resulted in a slashing penalty against Gurianov, handing the Penguins their third power play of the afternoon. The Stars would do a fine job killing off their third penalty of the game, holding the game to within a goal.
It was evident that as the third period went along the Stars had finally hit their overall team game, carrying the majority of the play at the halfway mark. All of the work in the period would finally culminate in a mammoth Joe Pavelski tally to tie the game. The Stars won the puck on the wall and Jason Robertson directed it towards the Pittsburgh net. Pavelski was there to clean up the mess in front and slid the puck past an outstretched Jarry.
Moments later the famed line of Robertson, Pavelski, and Hintz had the Penguins in a full scramble on a fast two-on-one. Hintz slid an aerial pass over to Robertson who inexplicably was able to handle the pill well enough to direct it to Miro Heiskanen. The puck was knocked in front to a wide open Hintz who calmly deposited the puck into the open net. The goal gave the Stars the lead late in a game that they had utterly taken over after falling behind early.
The last minutes of the game became about Oettinger who shut the door on the Penguins attack with the extra attacker. The best chance came in tight when Crosby nearly worked the puck to his backhand, only to see it squirt away and to the blue line.
Dallas 32 Pittsburgh 29
Dallas 3 Pittsburgh 2
- This was the first win of the season for the Stars when trailing the game after two periods.
- The Stars have now followed up their five game losing streak with a three game winning streak against three of the top teams in the NHL (Minnesota, Florida, Pittsburgh).
- The Stars pushed their record against the top teams in the league to 7-1-1.
- The loss for the Penguins snaps a ten game winning streak.
- Dallas hits the ice again tomorrow afternoon in an important division tilt against the St. Louis Blues.