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Penguins suffer rare blown third-period lead in loss to Stars

This is just the sixth time that the Mike Sullivan-led Penguins have lost in regulation when leading after two periods.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Dallas Stars
Ryan Suter battles Danton Heinen for the puck in Dallas on January 8.
Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Since Mike Sullivan stepped behind the Penguins’ bench in December 2015, the Penguins have carried a lead into the third period 208 times during the regular season.

They’ve only lost six of those games in regulation.

In 2021-22 so far, the Penguins are 18-1-1 when leading after two periods. Let’s look back at the where the other regulation lead-blowing losses have come from over these six seasons.

2/28/17 @ Stars (3-2): A goal from Evgeni Malkin in the first period and a strike from Jake Guentzel in the second frame gave the Penguins a two-goal cushion heading into the third period in Dallas— but the Stars erased the lead in a matter of seven minutes, when three straight even-strength goals in the third period forced the Penguins to a regulation loss.

10/23/19 @ Lightning (3-2): A tally by Jake Guentzel in the final minute of the second frame gave the Penguins the lead heading into the third, but it was also Guentzel’s late hooking penalty that allowed the power-play goal sealing Tampa Bay’s comeback victory in the final minute of regulation.

11/4/19 @ Bruins (6-4): The Penguins saw an offensive explosion in the second period, when Dominik Kahun, Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust scored before John Marino tallied with three seconds left in the frame to give the Penguins a one-goal lead. The Bruins answered with a three-goal third period, and ended the night with a two-goal lead.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Dallas Stars
Sidney Crosby battles Cody Eakin for the puck in Dallas on February 28, 2017, the last time the Penguins suffered a regulation loss after a blown third-period lead to the Stars.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

2/23/20 @ Capitals (5-3): Goals from Patric Hornqvist and Sidney Crosby in a span of just 26 seconds during the second frame erased an early Capitals lead— but Washington earned it decisively back with four third-period goals, including two revenge tallies from Carl Hagelin, to erase the Penguins’ comeback effort.

3/4/21 vs. Flyers (4-3): In perhaps the most painful loss on the list, and the only one at home, the Penguins racked up three goals in a span of 1:11 in the first period— then buckled, allowing four unanswered strikes from the visiting Flyers, including the killing blow from Claude Giroux with just over two minutes left on the clock.

1/8/22 @ Stars (3-2): It looked like the Penguins were going to roll comfortably into their 11th straight win on Saturday, when Brian Dumoulin and Kasperi Kapanen opened scoring with a pair of goals just 25 seconds apart in the first period— but after cutting the lead to one in the second period, the Stars scored twice in the final 5:01 of regulation to seal the Penguins’ sixth regulation blown third-period lead in Mike Sullivan’s tenure.

What we saw on Saturday was a rare event; under Sullivan, the Penguins have become experts at protecting late leads.