The Pittsburgh Penguins slogged through a low-event game for most of 60 minutes. The Dallas Stars scored in the first 19 seconds and Evgeni Malkin scored in the final 34 seconds for a 2-1 win at PPG Paints Arena.
Space, chances, high-danger fun? No. A Jedi craves not these things.
The Penguins and Dallas stayed nearly shot for shot (27-26 Dallas), and each team mustered only five high-danger scoring chances.
However, there was a little something different on the game-winning shift. Malkin stalked his prey and pounced when he had the chance.
Malkin and his linemates Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker had a takeaway deep in the Penguins’ zone, then began a three-wide rush for nearly 200 feet. Zucker took the puck to the net, Malkin cleaned the rebound for the game-winner.
“It was a little bit of a luck(y) goal,” said Malkin, who had not scored one in the previous nine games. “But I’m glad. Now it’s a little bit relaxed for myself.”
Malkin was being modest. There’s nothing lucky about an end-to-end rush after a good defensive play and taking the puck to the net.
“Geno had a great backcheck in the third period, catching the rush … we get as excited about (the defensive play) as we do when he scores goal,” said coach Mike Sullivan.
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman P.O Joseph tallied later in the first period. The goal was both a power play goal and an aggressive launch off the blue line. Joseph immediately bolted past the penalty killer at the top of the zone and snapped a high-glove wrister past Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger. It was Joseph’s first of the year.
“I was just trying to hurry my way into the zone,” Joseph said. “I know the guys were waiting for me there. (Kasperi Kapanen) made an unbelievable pass, and Zucker was placed perfectly in front of the net.”
Joseph said that he wasn’t entirely certain about where his shot got past Oettinger.
“Honestly, I didn’t see much,” he said. “(Zucker) teased me a little bit, and said that he touched it. The only thing that matters right now is that we finished with the win.”
While the game ended very nicely for the Penguins, they couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start.
Just 19 seconds after the opening faceoff. Kris Letang kicked a puck into the right circle in the defensive zone … and right onto the stick of Stars forward Roope Hintz, who threw a shot past Tristan Jarry for a 1-0 Dallas lead.
“We have to be a little tighter,” Jarry said. “It’s hard when we give up a goal in the first minute of the game. … We didn’t get discouraged, and I think the guys did a great job and P.O was able to give us a boost.”
The Penguins are 10-1-1 in their past 12 games, testimony to the way they have dealt with whatever adversity they have faced in recent weeks.
“The guys are doing a great job of just coming together,” Jarry said. “When something happens, whether it’s good or bad, we’re all coming together.”
*Dave Molinari contributed to this story.