The way the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars battled on Wednesday night, you'd think they played once a week instead of once a year.
Dallas' Loui Eriksson outshone Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin by scoring twice, once on a penalty shot, as the Stars battled their way to a 5-2 victory against the frustrated Penguins. No one was more frustrated than Crosby, whose team trailed 4-1 when he got into a second-period fight with Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen.
"You've got to give credit to Sidney trying to inspire his group," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "I like the way Matt Niskanen got in there, he certainly will be on a lot of highlight tapes tonight."
Crosby fought Niskanen just two seconds after Stars captain Brenden Morrow fought with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
"Morrow went after Letang," Crosby said when asked about the third fight of his NHL career. "I just stood up for Tanger."
The Crosby-Niskanen scuffle at 12:33 of the second period was one of four fights between teams that have seen each other just three times in the last three years -- and it caught Niskanen by surprise.
"I never saw that coming," Niskanen said. "We were up 4-1, he was trying to get the team going a little bit, he asked me to go, and we went. I got him hard once in the helmet, if that counts. But he's very strong on his skates and he probably had the upper hand a little bit."
That would have been the only place the Penguins had the upper hand all night. Dallas dominated from the start and has won back-to-back games after dropping the first three of a season-high six-game homestand.
The Stars wasted no time taking command. Stephane Robidas' blast from the right point bet Johnson at 3:51, and Brad Richards one-timed a feed from James Neal into the net at 7:57 for a 2-0 lead. Dallas' penalty-killers did their part later in the period by killing off a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted 1:37.
"It was a big momentum swing there," Niskanen said. "The guys did an awesome job of keeping them on the outside."
Tyler Kennedy's backhander off a faceoff got past Lehtonen to make it 2-1 at 6:20 of the second, but Steve Ott put the puck into an open net off Robidas' pass to restore the two-goal advantage at 10:52.
Just 59 seconds later, Eriksson was awarded his first career penalty shot when he was he was hauled down by Alex Goligoski on a breakaway. Eriksson faked Johnson and slid a backhander into the wide-open net to make it 4-1.
"I actually thought about doing that move from the start," Eriksson said. "I did it once in Vancouver two years ago (in a shootout) and it worked, and today it worked again."
The Penguins thought they had cut the deficit to 4-2 at 16:52, but after a video review, the officials ruled that Mike Comrie guided the puck into the net with his glove and waved off the goal.
Eriksson scored an unassisted goal 5:12 into the third period before Matt Cooke got a late goal for the Penguins.
"Tonight we didn't play very well," Crosby said.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report