Penguins Make a Point … But Don’t Get One in 3-2 Loss
This was a night when it seemed as if the Jenga tower that is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup might collapse.
Already down four defensemen because of injuries, they were missing their No. 1 goaltender and feared they might be without at least one of their top two left wingers, if not both.
For a team that had just escaped an exasperating four-game losing streak, there was every reason to wonder if their 5-2 victory in Denver Wednesday night had been nothing more than a three-hour reprieve from reality.
But despite the injuries and playing the previous night and facing the team that sits atop the Central Division, the Penguins hung with Dallas throughout what became a 3-2 loss at the American Airlines Center.
And the outcome might have been more favorable for them had Chad Ruhwedel not taken a third-period penalty for the third game in a row. He was in the box when Joe Pavelski broke a 1-1 tie to put the Stars in front to stay.
Despite the defeat, the Penguins still hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are one point ahead of Florida and two behind the New York Islanders.
All three teams have 10 games remaining.
The Penguins played without go-to goalie Tristan Jarry, who suffered an unspecified lower-body injury in the Avalanche game.
Mike Sullivan, who announced Jarry’s injury a few hours before the game, gave no indication of its precise nature or severity.
Whether Jarry would have started against Dallas isn’t known — Sullivan generally splits the workload when the Penguins play on consecutive days — but his absence assured that Casey DeSmith got the call.
It was the 17th game Jarry has missed this season because of injury, all since he was hurt during the first period of the Winter Classic at Fenway Park Jan. 2.
Although losing Jarry again obviously is a concern for the Penguins, both teams received some good injury news before the game.
Dallas got Tyler Seguin back after a six-game absence, while the Penguins’ top two left wingers, Jake Guentzel and Jason Zucker, were able to play despite being hobbled when they blocked shots against Colorado.
The Penguins had been concerned enough about the availability of one — or both — that they summoned forward Filip Hallander from their farm team in Wilkes-Barre on an emergency recall, but he was formally returned before the game began.
If the Penguins were feeling the effects of their victory over the Avalanche, it didn’t show during the first period.
They actually outshot the Stars, 15-14, then and had a number of quality scoring chances, especially early.
DeSmith made the first big stop of the game, denying Jamie Benn on a Wyatt Johnston rebound 55 seconds after the opening faceoff, but the Pittsburgh Penguins countered with three excellent opportunities over the next few minutes.
Just over 2 1/2 minutes in, Taylor Fedun missed the net with an uncontested shot from the slot.
Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger then rejected Jeff Carter on a 3-on-1 break just over three minutes in, and stopped Evgeni Malkin during a 2-on-1 with Zucker at 5:08.
Nonetheless, the only goal in the first was scored by Stars forward Roope Hintz. He burst between Josh Archibald and Chad Ruhwedel near the Penguins’ blue line before putting a shot between DeSmith’s legs at 8:45 for his 33rd of the season.
The Penguins were credited with the first eight shots of the second period and pulled even just four minutes into it.
They scored when Mark Friedman shanked a slap shot from above the right hash … and sent the puck directly to Sidney Crosby, who was unchecked to the left of the crease and shoveled a shot by Oettinger for his 31st. Jake Guentzel got the second assist.
The Penguins preserved the 1-1 tie by killing a tripping minor assessed to Zucker at 15:52 and a hooking minor on P.O Joseph at 6:13 of the third.
But their penalty-killing luck ran out when Ruhwedel was called for high-sticking at 8:55 and Joe Pavelski tipped a Miro Heiskanen feed past DeSmith from the right hash at 9:49 to put Dallas up, 2-1.
Benn expanded Dallas’ comfort zone at 11:25, throwing a Max Domi rebound past DeSmith from the slot.
That turned out to be the game-winner, because Joseph whipped a wrist shot through traffic and past Oettinger from above the left circle for his fifth of the season at 13:43 to make it 3-2.
Dallas defenseman Jani Hakanpaa was penalized for slashing at 18:52, but the Penguins were unable to generate the goal that would have forced overtime, despite relentless pressure.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to have a travel day Friday and will face Washington Saturday sometime after 8 p.m. — it’s a national broadcast, so the TV network will decide when it can begin — at PPG Paints Arena.