PITTSBURGH — After nearly 47 minutes, it was fair to wonder if there would be a Penguins score Friday night. The listless Penguins couldn’t convert their high-danger chances and most of those opportunities were limited to the Penguins top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel until the third period. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang stickhandled around two diving defenders and slammed a wrist shot through Dallas goalie Anton Khodobin’s five-hole. The Penguins dominated the remainder of the game for a 4-2 win Friday at PPG Paints Arena.
It was Letang’s third goal of the season. Two minutes later, Patric Hornqvist (4) deflected a shot past Khudobin and the Penguins were finally able to breathe.
Letang (4) also scored the empty netter.
The Penguins got their first bit of good injury news this season as forward Jared McCann returned to the lineup after a one-game absence. McCann told reporters Thursday it was a simple injury which the Penguins wanted to prevent from becoming a nagging injury. McCann centered the Penguins second line Friday night with Dominik Kahun and Patric Hornqvist.
Rookie Sam Lafferty slid to the fourth line with fellow emergency call ups Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson.
Both teams were off to a sluggish start, despite having opposite streaks. The Penguins won four in a row and Dallas was attempting to avoid losing four in a row. The shot total in the opening period was 9-5 Penguins, and the prime scoring chances were exclusive to Penguins top liners Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Crosby had a pair of great looks in the first period including a two-on-one in the opening seconds of the game.
In the final few minutes of the second period, the Penguins finally found a spark. Hornqvist battled two defenders at the side of the net to create a loose puck and he batted it back toward the point. McCann (2) deflected defenseman Marcus Pettersson’s shot-pass to tie the game, 1-1.
Early in the second period, Roope Hintz (5) skated through the Penguins neutral zone trade and past a couple of Penguins defenders for a breakaway goal.
Meanwhile, the Penguins missed their golden chances in the second period, time and again. Guentzel failed to notch a goal on three chances within 10 feet midway through the second period. First, a fluttering rebound floated past him, then Khudobin made a sparkling save on a quick wrister, then Guentzel couldn’t find an opening from tight to the post.
Dallas also missed their great chance. Dallas fourth-liner Denis Gurianov’s shot hit the post and caromed directly to Dallas center Tyler Seguin. However, Seguin’s put-back shot missed the yawning cage and hit Penguins goalie Matt Murray. The hockey jargon calls that an unconscious save.
Lafferty and Brandon Tanev had a two-on-none as Tanev exited the penalty box early in the third period but Khudobin narrowly deflected the puck with the shaft of his stick.
Dallas defenseman John Klingberg (1) scored on a long-range wrist shot later in the second period.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray was good. He stopped 20 of 22. Kudobin made a handful of big saves but eventually buckled behind a struggling Dallas team.
Saturday, the Penguins host old friend and long-time Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas Golden Knights. Perhaps the Penguins won’t play a video to elicit tears from fans and players for Fleury’s second visit to Pittsburgh, Saturday.