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Recap: Pens empty the tank but come up short in Dallas

Pittsburgh fights until the bitter end, but don’t have enough to overcome the Dallas Stars on Thursday, losing 3-2 in regulation.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


Mike Sullivan deemed both Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker as game-time decisions, which didn’t seem promising — but both star wingers answer the bell and play this game while gutting out some bumps and bruises. Casey DeSmith starts on the back-to-back for the Penguins, but Tristan Jarry’s injury means he’s not serving as backup.

First period

Unlike the Penguins’ last few games (NYR, NYR, OTT, COL), where opposing defenses were tight and conceded almost nothing in transition, this Dallas team allows a handful of odd-man rushes in the opening minutes. The most notable has Evgeni Malkin shooting on a 2-on-1 but goalie Jake Oettinger stops him for the Stars.

Shots are heavy for both teams, and Dallas scores 8:45 into the game. A picture perfect breakout has Jason Robertson lay off a long stretch pass for Roope Hintz to take in stride and catch the defense flat-footed. Hintz snaps a five-hole shot and hits the back of the net. 1-0 Stars on their 11th shot of the game.

Shots in the first end up 15-14 PIT, with Oettinger’s strong play being the difference on the scoreboard so far.

Second period

Pittsburgh gets the game’s first power play early in the second but fail to generate a shot. That doesn’t discourage them and they get a nice bounce on a broken play (or whatever it was that Mark Friedman was attempting to do) and the puck finds Sidney Crosby in front of the net. Crosby chips it in to tie things up. Funny how the puck always tends to find the greats, huh?

It’s all Pens for the first half of the second, they out-shoot Dallas 10-1. Crosby almost nets a second goal with a jumping drive to the net. Oettinger calmly shuts down Ryan Poehling on a 2-on-1 but all the action is headed in the right direction for Pittsburgh.

Their momentum slows and cracks in the armor start showing when Zucker takes a tripping call during a wall battle in the offensive zone. The Stars are unable to do much with it.

Shots in the second even out to be 13-11 PIT and 28-25 Pens overall. Tie game through 40 minutes.

Third period

Crosby feeds Bryan Rust for a great chance from right outside the crease but Rust shoots it back into Oettinger with a lot of open net looking right on him. Tough on his backhand but it was a very nice opportunity that failing would come back to bite the Pens.

The Stars get a second power play when P.O, Joseph gets rung up for hooking. Pittsburgh’s PK holds up again. The Pens start playing with fire when soon after Chad Ruhwedel puts them down a player again after a high-stick call. This time they find a goal with a tipped shot from who else but Joe Pavelski the slot trickles on in. 2-1 with 10:11 to go.

From there the game starts to slip away, Pittsburgh is getting aggressive and they give up a 3-on-1 with only Taylor Fedun back. Actually, it might as well be a 3-on-0 because Fedun takes himself completely out of the play by going to the ice on a bad slide. Jamie Benn gets a pass and shoots. DeSmith stops that but Benn gets to the rebound and tucks it in. 3-1 Dallas with 8:35.

But Pittsburgh doesn’t go quietly into the good night. Joseph bounces back from his earlier penalty by jumping up from the blue line a little and firing a shot that sneaks in through traffic. 3-2 game with only 6:17 to go.

With 1:45 to go in the game, DeSmith skates to the bench for an extra skater. The Pens get only their second power play of the game with 1:08 when a Dallas defender slashes Crosby. Timeout PIT with those 68 seconds to go to rest the big boys.

Rickard Rakell gets the best look but his shot hits Oettinger’s shoulder. DAL timeout with 20 seconds left. Crosby gets a backhander but not much power on it and Oettinger snags it with his glove. Game ends.

Some thoughts

  • It’s a good thing Zucker and Guentzel could gut it out (ankle and foot is a long way from the heart!) because Dustin Tokarski didn’t arrive and walked into the arena in a suit late in the second period. Filip Hallander wouldn’t have been available until the third period eithr, and the Pens would have been playing with 11 forwards for a while if both dinged up players couldn’t go. And Zucker and Guentzel didn’t look to the eye and more worn down or worse than anyone else on their team either.
  • Then again, Zucker might have been laboring a bit and ESPN got a camera shot of him smashing his stick going into the locker room for the second intermission. Probably not the most comfortable game he’s ever had, or was pissed off about something else.
  • It was a very solid showing at all for DeSmith, and that’s probably a good thing since Tristan Jarry is Tristan Jarry’ing again and currently unavailable with an injury once more. Pittsburgh doesn’t have another b-2-b until April 1+2, so depending on the severity of Jarry’s latest issue, it might be DeSmith’s ship to steer for what is quickly becoming the end of the regular season (eight games, counting tonight in the next two weeks).
  • Shoehorning in our Bob Grove tweet of the night AND archaic country music reference — move over Bob Wills, no longer still the King down in Texas. Sidney Crosby takes the crown with, shockingly enough, his first ever goal @DAL in his career. Crosby has now scored a goal in all 31 road arenas, and per Grove breaks a seven-game scoreless streak @DAL. Then again, Sid’s so humble he’d probably be the first to tell you Bob Wills is still the king (assuming of course he had he any idea).
  • Players who should willingly leave their feet in the defensive zone: Rob Scuderi (2003-12). That’s pretty much the list. Players who should not do that: pretty much everyone else, especially when your momentum is taking you to the corner, Taylor Fedun. Always a personal pet peeve.
  • The Pens had 10 shot attempts in the last 68 seconds. They went down to the wire throwing everything they had left, just came up short. Given the circumstances of being down four d-men, on the road against a first place team and tired, it was a noble effort. But there’s no spot in the standings for anything but results.
  • Well, in slightly good news for the Pens’ playoff chances, the Florida Panthers lost to Toronto tonight. That leaves Pittsburgh one point ahead of Florida for the last spot, each team has 10 games remaining. The Pens are one point behind the Islanders for the other spot.

After this quick road trip, the Pens are back at home on Saturday to see their rivals the Capitals one more time this season.