Cold facts: Stars rally past Pittsburgh on short rest

Updated 8 hours ago DALLAS — Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel came into Friday night's game as the top three scorers in the NHL since Jan. 1.

The Dallas Stars muscled up on the high-flying trio in regulation, largely keeping them in check.

Tyler Seguin was the only successful shooter in the tiebreaking round, and Lehtonen stopped Malkin, Crosby and Kessel in succession, leading the Stars to a 4-3 victory.

It’s an exciting time for Big D in terms of hockey. The Stars have won four games in a row, are 32-19-4 on the year with 68 points, and own sole possession of the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. They are also within striking distance of all three of the top spots in the Central Division. If they keep playing as they have recently, they should have no trouble at jumping into the top three.

“It's unfortunate a game like that has to go to a shootout, but we played really well all night,” goalie Matt Murray said. “It's a good point moving forward.”

In one sense, Murray is right. The Penguins should be thrilled with the point they gained to improve to 11-4-1 since New Year's Day. They were losing 3-2 when Justin Schultz collected a deflected Malkin centering pass in the left faceoff circle and buried a shot with 73 seconds left to force overtime.

“Lucky bounce. Happened to get a lot on it,” Schultz said. “It was a big goal for us.”

In another sense, it was a missed opportunity for the Penguins, who scored the game's first two goals and carried a 2-1 advantage into the third period.

Stars’ Kari Lehtonen: Tough opponent on tap

About three minutes into the period, Alexander Radulov took a puck deep and made a pass back to John Klingberg for a blast through the legs of center Carter Rowney and Murray.

About three minutes after that, on a play where Murray lost his stick, Dan Hamhuis tracked down a rebound in the slot and ripped a shot past Murray.

Mike Heika answers Stars questions at 2 pm Monday, Feb. 12; ask yours now

“You practice playing without your stick,” Murray said. “I don't feel like I need a defenseman's stick. I think they're probably better off having it. Just a bit of a moving screen on that one. I was late picking it up. Guy put a pretty good shot on it.”

The Penguins lost for the first time in 18 tries when carrying a lead into the third period this season. They've also lost four of their last five road games.

The Stars opted to go with traditional starter Ben Bishop against the Blackhawks on Thursday night, which proved to be a fruitful decision as Bishop skated away with his 23rd win of the season. Lehtonen, on the other hand, looks much more comfortable in a condensed role. His rate stats (2.22 GAA and .919 save percentage) are his strongest in several years, and he’s undefeated through four appearances in 2018. With all that said, there should be some apprehension among daily players in streaming Lehtonen against Pittsburgh, a team that is 7-3-0 over the past 10 games.

“Good teams finish games out like that,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “There have some games where we were winning 5-1, and we let teams back into it, made it a little too entertaining. I think it's something we can do better.”

The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes of the first period thanks to some depth scoring.

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After taking his first penalty in 47 games in a Penguins uniform, Riley Sheahan emerged from the box, kept the puck himself on a two-on-one with Bryan Rust and slipped a backhand shot past Lehtonen about nine minutes in.

Martin Hanzal missed Friday’s game with a lower body injury. He was hit in the ankle or knee with a shot on Thursday, left the game in the second period, and then returned to play the third. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said Hanzal tried but couldn’t skate on Friday. Should Dallas err on the side of caution every time with Hanzal going forward? He has had seven different injury situations this year.

Less than two minutes later, Carl Hagelin stole a puck from Klingberg in the defensive zone, used his blazing speed to take off on a breakaway and flipped a shot over Lehtonen's blocker.

The Stars came back from allowing the first goal (it was first two this time) for the fourth time in their five game winning streak. They played in Chicago Thursday, arrived at 3:40 a.m. because of snow in Chicago, got down 2-0 to a hot Pittsburgh team and still battled back and won. It was a good night at AAC.

The only point the team's big three scorers collected, conversely, was Malkin's assist on Schultz's tying goal.

With Dallas trying to fight back from a 2-1 deficit in the second period, Pittsburgh twice got behind Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. On the first play, Esa Lindell stepped behind Lehtonen to stop a try by Sidney Crosby. On the second, Tyler Seguin made the save on Crosby.

Three of the Penguins' five losses in 2018 have come against Western Conference teams that favor a more physical style of play, especially against the team's top stars.

“That was certainly the tactic tonight,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “A lot of teams try that. We've gone through that for a couple of seasons now. Teams try to play that way against us because they think that's their best chance to beat us.

“Our message to our guys has always been and will continue to be, ‘Let's not play their game. Let's play ours.' We have to make sure we play to our identity, and that's the speed game and making sure we get to pucks and we put people under pressure and use our quickness to our advantage.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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Stars: Penguins goalie Matt Murray lost his stick for an extended period of time and Dan Hamhuis took advantage for his third goal of the season at 6:47 of the third period. Stars 3, Penguins 2.

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Share Share Stars Snatch Victory From Penguins In 4-3 Come-From-Behind Win tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email At the beginning of the season, both the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins managed records that weren’t in alignment with expectations – or talent of either team’s rosters. Struggling to live up to those expectations for different reasons (one, the hopes of winning another consecutive Stanley Cup and the other to take a deep run after making moves to address the roster’s weaknesses to make a deep run), the Stars and Pens used those first games to forge their identities and really turn things around on the ice.

Both teams found themselves on hot streaks of their own heading into tonight’s contest. Pittsburgh sits second in their division with a slim margin between them and sitting outside of the playoff picture. Dallas is fighting to crawl into the top three in the toughest division of hockey, where a 7-2-1 record in your last 10 is just keeping pace with everyone else ahead of you.

After finding themselves down a pair of goals, the Stars managed to overcome the deficit and take a lead until a late tying goal by the Penguins with goaltender Matt Murray pulled for the extra attacker. The atmosphere in the building had been like a playoff game all night, so it seems only fitting that the two teams gave the fans in attendance bonus hockey tonight.

The opening minutes of the game started nearly exactly as I feared – they looked like a team that had played last night and traveled to Dallas, landing at 3:30 AM local time. That’s not an excuse, considering the Stars cancelled their morning skate because of it and should have looked relatively better than they did on the second half of a back-to-back, more a statement of reality.

After spending much of the first half in their own zone, the Stars allowed two goals within two minutes of each other to dig themselves a whole early into the contest. Riley Sheahan was able to score after a stand-up body play by Stephen Johns in the neutral zone and couldn’t catch up to the play again. Then, Carl Hagelin got in uncontested for a shorthanded goal.

As the period went on, the Stars started to skate better, and Tyler Seguin was able to cut the lead in half.

It sure felt more like Stars hockey in the second frame, though they weren’t able to find an equalizer in the period. They spent more time in the offensive zone than in the first period, and had some good looks on Matt Murray.

The things that won’t show on the stats sheet was the better puck support the Stars had in the second period. They did a better job battling for the puck, and there were usually two in green near the puck to give players outlet options.

Kari Lehtonen must have been living right in the second period, though, because there were two times where he was pulled out of his net and his team bailed him out from allowing a third goal. The first came from fantastic stick work by Esa Lindell to sweep the puck from behind Lehtonen and to the boards left of the net. The second was an excellent save by Seguin.

Dallas hit the third period aggressively, hounding for the puck and continuing their play from the second period. It paid off in spades, as the Stars took their first lead of the game in the frame after finding the equalizer.

John Klingberg added to his NHL-leading scoring by a blueliner by scoring the tying goal. It came after Mattias Janmark and Jason Spezza established a cycle in the Penguins zone, which was continued on by the Stars top line when they came on the ice after a shift change. Klingberg found himself with the puck and not a single player in black and yellow near him, and a clear shot at Murray – and he didn’t miss.

About five minutes after finding the tying goal, the Stars took their first lead of the game when Dan Hamhuis put a puck in from right above the left circle.

From there, the Stars managed to lock down a one-goal lead against arguably the hottest team in the league right now. The fans were into the game, and were loud and encouraging throughout the last half of the game as they tried to maintain the lead. It took a pulled goaltender and an extra attacker for Pittsburgh to get an equalizer in the dying minutes of the third period.

They would have tied it up sooner if it wasn’t for Lehtonen’s spectacular diving save. After a bit of a rocky start, Lehtonen shut everything down nearly everything that was thrown his way – and he deserves as much credit as anyone on the team for pulling out at least a point tonight.

3-on-3 overtime is high blood pressure inducing when you’ve got two teams with the talent that makes it a north-south skating and shooting affair. Tonight was no different in that regard. Each team had some glorious chances, and Lehtonen and Murray were the MVPs of their respective teams, stopping each one of them.

The thing about the 3-on-3 format that is tough on players is they can get hemmed into their own zone for a bit and then have a fantastic breakaway chance the other way, and then have that saved and have to play defense the other way. It leads to much longer shifts than normal for some of these guys.

Iron has never sounded sweeter than it did when Sidney Crosby rang his shootout attempt off the crossbar behind Lehtonen’s head during the shootout. Two big stops by the Stars netminder and a Seguin shootout goal sealed the win for Dallas, allowing them to snatch two points from a game in which they went into the third period losing – a feat they haven’t accomplished this season prior to tonight.

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