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Aftermath: Penguins 4, Stars 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
Pittsburgh is on a roll. The Penguins completely dominated the Dallas Stars en route to winning their third straight game and fifth victory in their last six games. The win propelled the Penguins into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and back into the playoff picture.

Though they may only hold the eighth seed temporarily, it’s still a confidence boost for a team that has been stuck at No. 10 since January. The Penguins have resurrected their postseason hopes under the direction of interim head coach Dan Bylsma and have played their best hockey since November.

The Penguins are getting hot at the right time. They will need to carry their momentum to the great state of Florida in duels with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. The game against Florida will be a particularly important tilt because both teams are battling for their playoff lives. But the Penguins can’t overlook Tampa Bay either.

The Penguins have come a long way to crawl back into the No. 8 spot, but the work has only just begun.
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) - NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists, Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their third in a row without captain Sidney Crosby, 4-1 over the stumbling Dallas Stars on Sunday.

Crosby, who began the day as the league's No. 3 scorer with 79 points, has missed three games due to a left groin injury.

Malkin had the primary assist on goals by Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, and struck on the power play in the second period. He has 92 points in 64 games.
 
PLAYOFF CHASE
 
Pos. Team              GP   Record    Pts
4.     Philadelphia   61   33-18-10  76
5.     Montreal          63   34-22-7    75
6.     Florida             63   32-23-8    72
7.     NY Rangers   64   32-24-8    72
8.     Pittsburgh      64   32-26-6    70
9.     Buffalo             63   31-25-7    69
10.     Carolina          64   32-27-5    69

Team Notables:
Philadelphia: Lost to New Jersey, 3-0.
NY Rangers: Off-day: Plays at NY Islanders, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Montreal: Off-day: Plays at Buffalo, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Florida: Plays at Washington, Sunday at 3 p.m.
Buffalo: Off-day: Hosts Montreal, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Carolina: Off-day:Plays at Washington, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Penguins fans show their support in Dallas (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Offensive Possession Time
Interim head coach Dan Bylsma’s philosophy is that the best defense is a good offense – in particular, keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Spending more time in the attacking zone equals less scoring chances for the opponent. Pittsburgh dominated the possession time and had a few extended shifts – some lasting longer than a minute – in the Stars zone. The feat helped Pittsburgh hold Dallas to one goal.

What Could Have Gone Better: Goose Egg
The Penguins offensive possession time limited Dallas’ scoring chances. Pittsburgh held the Stars to only 21 shots. The only downside is that the Penguins couldn’t blank Dallas. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 20 shots but came up one short of his fourth shutout of the season.
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
Evgeni Malkin played one of his finest games of the season. He notched three points with a power-play goal and two assists. Malkin set up the Penguins’ first two goals and then buried the team’s fourth to essentially clinch the victory. He finished the game with a plus-3 rating, six shots, logged over 23 minutes of ice time, played physical and was impressive defensively.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
Interim head coach Dan Bylsma put Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko together and was rewarded with a goal. Dallas blueliner Stephane Robidas pinched to try and keep the puck in but Fedotenko managed to chip the puck forward. Staal raced past Mike Ribeiro, who rotated to Robidas’ position, and collected the puck in the neutral zone. Malkin jumped into the play and Pittsburgh had a two-on-one. Malkin took a shot on Stars goaltender Tobias Stephan. The netminder kicked out the rebound. Staal nearly skated past the puck but was able to reach back and bat it into the net on his backhand. Pittsburgh 1, Dallas 0.

Kris Letang used speed and some nifty stick-handling to tally a goal for Pittsburgh. Malkin carried the puck down the far side of the neutral zone and made a cross-ice feed to Letang, who was sprinting down the near boards. Letang used his speed to get around defenseman Robidas. Letang faked a shot, catching Stephan flatfooted, and then dished a backhand shot into the net. Pittsburgh 2, Dallas 0.

Miroslav Satan scored a beautiful goal to up Pittsburgh’s lead. Satan was the only Penguin pressuring in the Dallas zone when Trevor Daley tried to make a D-to-D pass. The puck appeared to hit a bad patch of ice and Satan grabbed the puck and was one-on-one with Stephan. Satan went to his back and Stephan flopped to the ice. Satan then skated around the netminder and went back to his forehand to score. Pittsburgh 3, Dallas 0.

The Penguins took advantage of an awkward bounce to convert a power-play goal. The Stars tried to throw a puck around the boards from the far corner. The puck came off the boards, caromed off of Petr Sykora and glided to Malkin in the far dot. Malkin reached with his backhand to collect the puck, flipped it to his forehand and deposited a shot into the net. Pittsburgh 4, Dallas 0.

Dallas broke the shutout bid by Marc-Andre Fleury with a power-play score. Veteran Mike Modano tracked down a in the Penguins zone and threw it behind the net. Chris Conner made a centering pass to Loui Eriksson, who was all alone atop the crease because the Penguins were pursuing the puck behind the goal. Eriksson roofed a shot into the top-left corner. Pittsburgh 4, Dallas 1.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Center Sidney Crosby missed his third straight game due to a groin injury. Crosby has missed four games this season with injuries. Pittsburgh is 4-0 in his absence.

Brooks Orpik posted a game-high nine hits.
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved to 32-26-6 on the year, with a 15-14-4 mark on the road. Pittsburgh has won three straight games and is 5-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> Scoring Summary:
PIT, J.Staal (17), 4:08 1st period: Penguins 1, Stars 0.
PIT, K.Letang (6), 16:21 1st period: Penguins 2, Stars 0.
PIT, M.Satan (17), 8:18 2nd period: Penguins 3, Stars 0.
PIT, E.Malkin PP (29), 12:38 2nd period: Penguins 4, Stars 0.
DAL, L.Eriksson PP (28), 6:02 3rd period: Penguins 4, Stars 1.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal and two assists for three points to extend his NHL lead in points to 92 (29G-63A). Malkin’s 63 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. In his last 24 games, Malkin has collected 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points.

> Malkin has an eight-game scoring streak in which he’s tallied 12 points (5G-7A). Malkin has notched a point in 19 of his last 22 games.

> Sidney Crosby did not play against Dallas with a groin injury, the third straight game he’s missed. He is third in the league in scoring with 79 points (23G-56A) and his 56 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 63.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves to net his fifth win in his past six games. The victory was the 100th of his career. He is only the third goalie in Penguins’ history to hit the century mark and is four shy of Ken Wregget (104) for second place on the Penguins’ all-time wins list. It was also Fleury's 13th straight start.

> Jordan Staal scored his second goal in as many games. He has three points (2G-1A) in his last two contests.

> Miroslav Satan scored his third goal in six games.

> Chris Kunitz notched an assist to extend his scoring streak to four games (2G-3A).

> Sergei Gonchar tallied two assists against the Stars. He is currently riding a seven-game scoring streak (2G-7A), which is his longest stretch as a Penguin. He went scoreless in his first game returning from shoulder surgery. Gonchar has scored in every game since. 

> FSN Pittsburgh's broadcast was temporarily lost during the game. They released the following about the technical difficulties:

FSN Pittsburgh experienced transmission issues from its Crawford Communications master control facility located in Atlanta today, Sun., March 1, 2009. Several Pittsburgh cable affiliates, including Comcast and Armstrong, as well as DirecTV, lost FSN Pittsburgh’s signal multiple times throughout the day most recently during the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Dallas Stars NHL game. FSN Pittsburgh recognizes and apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused our affiliates, viewers, team partners and advertisers.

These losses of signal issues were caused by heavy snow/white out conditions and freezing rain in the Atlanta area, more specifically a phenomenon typically referred to as rain fade in heavy storms. While this was an act of nature largely out of our control, please be assured that engineers at Crawford Communications are currently working to eliminate the future risks of signal loss to its Pittsburgh affiliates until the inclement weather passes. The Winter Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service is in effect until Midnight EST tonight for Atlanta and its surrounding areas.
 
THREE STARS QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
   
1. E.Malkin, PIT
2. R.Fedotenko, PIT
3. K.Letang, PIT
“We have a long way to go. We still have 28 hockey games
left. We have to keep focusing on what we’re doing night
in and night out. It will take care of itself if we do that.”
- Dan Bylsma told FSN Pittsburgh
 
 

Author: Sam Kasan

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