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Penguins/Stars Recap: Kris Letang’s two goal night helps Pittsburgh to a fifth straight win

Letang scores two goals, Patric Hornqvist records three points and the Pens roll over the Stars and get a 5 game win streak

Dallas Stars v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Penguins and Stars met on Friday night, it was a bit of a cautious game. For Pittsburgh, that’s mostly because they have a ton of talent out injured. For Dallas, it was more to getting out to and clinging on a 1-0 lead to break a terrible start to their season.

The Pens had their chances, but were met with frustration. Just ten seconds into the game, Sidney Crosby burst through the neutral zone for a two-on-one. The defenseman took the pass away so Crosby shot but Stars goalie Anton Khudobin made the stop. Later, Sam Lafferty would hit the post on a two-on-zero breakaway.

But it was Dallas who struck first, early in the second period when Jamie Benn passed the puck up through the Pens’ third defensive pair and Roope Hintz quickly sniped five-hole on Matt Murray to open the scoring.

Pittsburgh stayed in it, and got an important tying goal before intermission. Jared McCann returned from injury for this game and made it count tipping a Marcus Pettersson point shot and it’s 1-1 going into the third period.

The Pens took the lead with an amazing individual play by Kris Letang. The defenseman jumped up in the offensive zone, outlasted two Stars players diving to block a shot, stick-handled the puck an estimated 10,000 times in quick succession (give or take a few, possibly) forcing Khudobin to open up room under his legs for Letang to stuff the puck in. 2-1 Pittsburgh.

The Pens wouldn’t sit on a one goal lead, they made it 3-1 with Hornqvist tipping a shot in the high slot that Brian Dumoulin was sending in to the net.

For a Dallas team that averaged 1.88 goals/game coming into tonight, a two goal deficit with under 10 minutes left in the third period must have seemed like a big mountain to climb. But they started climbing it when defenseman John Klingberg collected a puck from the right wall and quickly flicked it on and into the net.

That would be as close as they would get though, Letang sealed the deal with his second goal of the game on an empty net to seal the deal for Pittsburgh.

Three closing thoughts

  • Third pair playing with fire. Pittsburgh’s third pair of Jack Johnson and John Marino is one player they really like (Marino) and one they just hope can help make it through the game (Johnson). They get heavily outshot almost every game. Murray has masked this with a 94-95% save percentage coming into tonight, but he didn’t mask anything tonight — both goals allowed by the Pens came with the third pair defense on the ice. This pair has been on ice for exactly 0 goals for this season. They’re not really a solution, and it’s not working, despite how much they understandably like the skill-set and ability Marino has as a young player.
  • McCann earning it. After missing one game with an injury he described as “nagging”, Jared McCann had to endure some pain blocking two shots squarely low on his body and getting crunched early in this game. but he persevered and got rewarded by scoring a goal getting to the middle of the ice and putting a tip on the puck. Good for him, he’s morphing into a key player on this team and has reliably scored an impressive amount of goals. Add in the context of getting through some noise and pain to do so makes it more impressive.
  • Hornqvist shines. It was a plodding type of game, with a lot of battling, not a ton of shots and only two goals until the action broke open in the third period. In short, it was a perfect Patric Hornqvist type of game. Hornqvist ended up with a game-high three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and what ended up being the game-winning goal. Plus, this Stars team is well-known for their prominent (and very good) Finnish players. Naturally, the peskiest Swede in the world, Hornqvist, just has to show out and send them miffed after this game.

Make it a five game winning streak for your Pittsburgh Penguins! Letang played like a Norris trophy type of guy, the Pens went low-to-high resulting in a couple of tip goals, worked out pretty well. The team will look to stay hot and keep it rolling tomorrow night with a quick turnaround against Vegas.