The Dallas Stars have struggled to score goals recently, and the trend continued Sunday in Pittsburgh.
The Stars scored just once -- and that was on a 5-on-3 power play -- and they fell to the Penguins, 3-1, at PPG Paints Arena.
The Stars have scored just 23 goals in the last 13 games (1.77 per game), and they have scored two goals or fewer ten times during that 13-game stretch in which they are 5-6-2.
[WATCH: All Stars vs. Penguins highlights]
"We don't want to do the hard stuff to score," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "We don't want to put it into the areas we need to. We don't want to put it on the net and pick it up from there. We want to make the next play, so in the offensive zone we end up playing sideways.
"It starts with our top players. Our top players look, at times, like they are waiting to go on the power play. That's how they play. We're on the perimeter, 5-on-5, waiting to go on the power play. That's a recipe for losing a hockey game."
Video: DAL@PIT: Radulov buries sharp-angle shot for PPG
The Stars have gone four straight games without a 5-on-5 goal, scoring just five goals overall during that stretch (four on the power play and one 6-on-5). On Sunday, the Stars had just 18 shots on goal, including 12 during 5-on-5 play.
"We have to create more 5-on-5," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "We're not creating enough 5-on-5, and that's hurting us when games are coming down to the wire."
Sunday's game opened a six-game road trip for the Stars, who fell to 38-25-6 on the season.
Alexander Radulov scored the lone goal for Dallas, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 27 of 29 shots. The Stars remain in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They are three points behind Minnesota for third place in the Central Division and three points ahead of the ninth-place spot in the West which is currently held by St. Louis.
The Penguins (40-26-4) won for the fourth time in the last five games and moved one point ahead of Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Evgeni Malkin had one goal and one assist and Casey DeSmith stopped 17 of 18 shots for the Penguins.
Video: DAL@PIT: Lehtonen denies Guentzel in front
"From start to finish tonight, this was one of the more complete efforts we've had all year on both sides of the puck," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We had some pretty high-quality scoring chances, and our play away from the puck was pretty good. We were stingy defensively."
The Penguins opened the scoring just under 13 minutes into the game by cashing in on their second power play of the night. Sidney Crosby set up Patric Hornqvist, who scored off a one-timer from the right circle to put Pittsburgh up 1-0 at the 12:57 mark.
The Penguins extended the lead to 2-0 late in the first when Phil Kessel set up defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who scored from the slot with 3.7 seconds left in the period after some extended zone time for Pittsburgh.
"Good pass by Phil and I just closed my eyes and shot it as hard as I could," said Oleksiak.
"It's a tough goal," said Spezza. "We have a couple of chances to get it out, and we don't. We had lots of time left to make it up, but you don't want to go down two heading into any intermission."
Video: Stars can't get greasy enough against Pens
The Stars penalty kill came up big in the second, killing off two Pittsburgh power plays early in the period to keep the Penguins from extending the lead.
The Penguins got into some penalty trouble, taking back-to-back minors that gave the Stars 52 seconds of 5-on-3 power-play time and Dallas cashed in. Spezza sent a cross-ice pass to Radulov, who scored from close range to make it a 2-1 game at 12:03 of the second.
The Penguins thought they had extended the lead to 3-1 with another Hornqvist power-play goal at 17:28 of the second period, but the Stars challenged the goal saying Pittsburgh entered the Dallas zone offside. The Stars won the challenge to negate the goal, and it was a 2-1 game heading into the third.
"It was a great call by [video coach Kelly Forbes], and it gave us a chance," Hitchcock said.
But the Stars couldn't take advantage of that chance, managing just four shots on goal in the third period, and Malkin sealed the win for Pittsburgh with a late empty-net goal to make it a 3-1 final.
Video: Stars can't complete comeback in Pittsburgh
The Stars have lost four of their last five road games (1-4-0) and are 14-15-3 away from home this season.
The Stars have scored 5 goals in their last 5 road games.
Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 30-18 and had a 51-38 advantage in shot attempts.
Alexander Radulov led the Stars with six shot attempts.
The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 4-5 on the penalty kill.
Dallas won 32 of 56 faceoffs (57 percent). Radek Faksa won 9 of 16 (56 percent). Tyler Seguin won 9 of 17 (53 percent). Jason Dickinson won 5 of 7 (71 percent).
Seguin led the Stars with 25:19 of ice time.
Video: Spezza on loss in Pittsburgh
The Stars continue their road trip Tuesday in Montreal. This will be the second and final meeting of the season between the Stars and Canadiens. The Stars won the first meeting, 3-1, in Dallas on Nov. 21.
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Remi Elie - Jason Dickinson - Devin Shore
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Gemel Smith, Julius Honka
Injured: Ben Bishop (knee), Martin Hanzal (back)
Video: DAL Recap: Radulov scores lone goal in loss to Pens
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow him on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.