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Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Stars play strong game, but fall to Penguins in shootout

By Mark Stepneski



DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars played another strong game against a top team Wednesday night, but this time they couldn’t come with two points and had to settle for one, falling 4-3 in a shootout to Pittsburgh at American Airlines Center.

“I thought it was a really good hockey game,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Both teams played hard and well. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the extra point.”

Wednesday’s game came after the Stars’ 3-2 overtime victory over Western Conference leading Vancouver on Sunday. That’s two straight games against quality opponents where the Stars went toe-to-toe with top teams, played very well and came away with points.

“That’s a good sign for our hockey club,” Gulutzan said. “I think we outshot both opponents here and thought the games were pretty even, both games. It’s an important thing for our psyche moving forward and into this last month of March or our last 18 games now.”

Wednesday’s loss ended the Stars’ winning streak at four games, but the point gave them a one point lead over Los Angeles and Colorado in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

It was a playoff atmosphere Wednesday night as the game saw several momentum shifts over the course of 65 minutes of play plus the shootout.

“The building, the fans were really into it, you could feel it.  It was kind of a back-and-forth game with the score and it was a fun game to be a part of there,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We couldn’t pull it out in the end, but we’ll take our point and move on.”

The Stars took a 1-0 lead with 4:35 left in the first period when Steve Ott set up Jamie Benn, who scored in his first game back after missing the previous six contests due to a leg injury.

“It was just hard work by my linemates and Otter made a good pass to find me in the slot and I just tried to get it off and it went good,” Benn said. “It felt good to get back out there with the guys.”

The Penguins tied it 1-1 with 1:07 left in the first. Pascal Dupuis sent a long pass to Steve Sullivan, who scored on a breakaway.

The two teams appeared to be headed to a scoreless second period, but the Stars scored off the rush with 12.2 seconds left in the period to take a 2-1 lead. Loui Eriksson set up Sheldon Souray, who beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a shot from the slot.

The Stars’ penalty kill came up big in the second period, stopping three Pittsburgh power plays. The Stars were 5-5 on the penalty kill for the game.

“PK was real good, real good. We needed that from that group,” said Gulutzan. “Against one of the better power plays and a real hot player I thought our PK was up to the test.”

The Penguins got goals from Craig Adams and Chris Kunitz 39 seconds apart early in the third to take a 3-2 lead, but the Stars bounced a little more than three minutes later when Eriksson made a pretty cross-crease pass to Michael Ryder, who scored with 12:37 remaining to tie the game at 3-3.

The Stars had 1:46 of power play in the overtime period, but couldn't take advantage. Pittsburgh won the shootout 3-2, getting goals from James Neal, Kunitz and Dupuis, while Eriksson and Benn scored for the Stars.

"I thought we played pretty good," said Benn.  "I think we outplayed them 5-on-5, we just took too many penalties and we had our chance to win there in overtime on the power play and didn’t get it done."

The win was the fourth straight for the Penguins, who are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

"They’re a tough team. They definitely played a hard game," Penguins center Jordan Staal said of the Stars. "We were down for a while there and our power play wasn’t quite getting us the goals. We got a couple of big even strength goals and found a way to win it.”

Notes

*The Stars ended the month of February with an 8-5-3 record.

*The Stars were 5-5 on the penalty kill and 0-4 on the power play.

*Pittsburgh lost defenseman Kris Letang after he was hit high by Stars forward Eric Nystrom, who was given a roughing minor on the play.

*Pittsburgh also lost forward Steve Sullivan to a lower body injury during the game.

*Adam Pardy and Toby Petersen were healthy scratches for Dallas.

*Wednesday night’s attendance was 17,455.