-Remember when Robert Bortuzzo fought the Predators' Colin Wilson March 4?
-We were curious as to why Bortuzzo was so angry afterwards when he slammed his helmet to the ice. We asked him after today's morning skate and he explained on his hit against Wilson preceding the fight, he suffered a cut above his left eye brow. While he didn't have a problem with fighting Wilson, he felt he should have back off in that instance due to the cut. After leaving the ice, each player required stitches and were actually in the trainer's room at the same time to get repaired. Bortuzzo said he told Wilson, "Good fight," while waiting for his stitches.
-Quite a few eyebrows were raised at today's morning skate when Marcel Goc worked on a third line with Tanner Glass and Brian Gibbons while Brandon Sutter worked on the fourth line with Craig Adams and Taylor Pyatt. We can't really offer much of an objection to that move. While has has had a revolving door of sub-par linemates this season, Sutter hasn't been nearly as effective of a player as he was last season and it would be a stretch to say he was truly all that effective in 2012-13. Goc has been okay in his handful of games with the Penguins thus far. Giving him a game or two on the third line is certainly a worthwhile experiment.
-That said, as anyone who watches this team with any regularity can attest, Dan Bylsma's lines are hardly set in stone.
-Sergei Gonchar held court with the Pittsburgh media today as he often does anytime he returns to Pittsburgh. He talked about Stars rookie Valeri Nichushkin who, like Gonchar, hails from Chelyabinsk, Russia. Gonchar was brought to Dallas in part to help aid Nichushkin in his transition to the NHL from Russia, much the same way he did for Evgeni Malkin as a rookie in 2006-07. Gonchar, who had Malkin live with him and his family for a few seasons, said there is a difference:
"He [Nichushkin] moved in with an American family because he wants to learn English. He’s done a pretty good job on it. He is a little different than Evgeni. It’s a little different case here. At the same time, you can see how much he has progressed since the beginning of the year, on the ice, off the ice."
-We chatted with former Penguin Alex Goligoski today as well. He has really taken a step forward this season after failing to completely live up to expectations after being traded from the Penguins in 2010-11. He's played in all but one game this season and has been eating up some significant minutes in all situations.
-Goligoski also talked about team captain Jamie Benn who has taken a step forward this season with Tyler Seguin. Goligoski said Benn's skating has improved quite a bit since Goligoski first arrived in Dallas. Goligoski had an interesting way of describing Benn's playing style by simply saying it's "different" than anyone else on the ice. He compared him to Blues forward T.J. Oshie in that regard.
-Some pregame sights. The barn:
-This is a good one. Greg Millen:
-We always seem to run into a Craig Adams fan:
-Here's a pair of heck-raisers. Darius Kasparaitis and Matthew Barnaby:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There are a few Stars fans. Mike Modano:
-Brenden Morrow Stars:
-James Neal Stars:
-Jersey Foul of the Night: Unless you want to cite a rivalry between the Blues and Stars, Jaroslav Halak Blues:
-A few former Penguins/Stars. Bill Guerin:
-Jarome Iginla, who was a former Stars draft pick but never played for the franchise:
-Gonchar is still popular in the 412:
-Jersey of the Night: Jason Woolley:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Lee Stempniak, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Jeff Zatkoff.
-Their scratches are Deryk Engelland, Jayson Megna and Taylor Pyatt.
-In warmups, the Penguins top two lines were set while the bottom two lines were a mish-mash. If we had to guess, these would be their lines to start the game at least:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen Evgeni Malkin James Neal
Tanner Glass Marcel Goc Joe Vitale
Brian Gibbons Brandon Sutter - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Rob Scuderi - Olli Maatta
Simon Despres - Robert Bortuzzo
-The Stars starters are Jamie Benn, Valeri Nichushkin, Tyler Seguin, Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski and Kari Lehtonen.
-Their scratches are Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peveley and Aaron Rome.
-No Jimerson. No photo.
18:38: The Stars are in a hole early as Cody Eakin high sticked Scuderi near the Penguins' net. That's a two minute minor. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Niskanen take the ice.
18:05: Off a feed by Niskanen, Malkin cranks a one-timer which Lehtonen fights off. Kunitz taps the rebound from the slot wide to the left of the cage.
17:17: From the right circle, Maatta slap passes to Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen chops a a one-timer on net. Lehtonen eats it up despite traffic.
17:00: The junior varsity power play has Despres, Goci, Maata, Stempniak and Jokinen.
15:59: Sutter pushes the puck up the right wing through a handful of defenders and taps a pass from below the goal line to Adams but it fails to connect. A nice effort by
15:43: Under pressure from Adams, Cody Eakin controls the puck in the left wing corner of his own zone and tries to play it up ice. Adams intercepts it and deals to Crosby down low. Crosby wheel around a stick-on-puck attempt by Gonchar in the slot and flings a backhander by the glove hand of Lehtonen. Adams gets the only assist. Nice effort by him to force that turnover. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
13:49: Crosby rips a wrister from the center point on net. Lehtonen snags it.
13:05: Neal whips a wrister from the right point on net.
12:43: The Penguins third defensive pairing is a wrecking crew. Eakin races up the right wing and tries to chip and chase a puck up the boards. Despres stops him dead in his tracks with a hip check on the half wall. Antoine Roussel chases the puck and is slammed to the ice hard on a shoulder check by Bortuzzo. Oof.
12:36: A wrister by Tyler Seguin from the right circle is denied by Zatkoff
12:25: Goligoski lifts a wrister from the right right Zatkoff smothers it.
12:14: Sutter challenges Goligoski one-on-one from the right circle and lifts a wrister which Lehtonen snags.
11:28: Taking a pass from Stempniak, Crosby flings a backhander from the right wing corner. Lehtonen snags it.
7:30: Tie game. After a turnover by Niskanen in his own zone, Daley chops a slapper from the right point. It rise up and glances off a stick. Seguin has position in the right circle on Niskanen and deflects the puck down towards the cage by Zatkoff's glove hand on the far side. Zatkoff protests that the puck was struck with a high stick but no dice. Daley gets the only assists. Penguins 1, Stars 1.
4:55: Niskanen thumps Benn into the Penguins' left wing corner pretty goodl.
4:35: Welcome back Chris Kunitz. Off a feed from Kunitz in the right wing corner, Stempniak cranks a one-timer from the right circle. Lehtonen spits out the rebound to the right of the cage. From a bad angle, Kunitz is able to beat Dale to the puck and jab the puck by Lehtonen on the near side. A classic ugly goal by Kunitz. Stempniak gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-1.
3:04: Ryan Garbutt chases down a puck in the right circle and rips a wrister. Zatkoff snags it.
2:51: Jordie Benn lugs a puck from behind his net and deals a pass from his own slot juuuust as the great Joe Vitale pops him with a shoulder check.
2:09: Ray Whitney tries to move a puck out the Penguins' right hand corner and has his stick broken on a slash by Kunitz. That's two minutes. Scuderi Adams, Gocr and Orpik take the ice.
1:30: Seguin grips and rips a wrister form the left circle off the cross bar.
0:37: Nichushkin snaps off a wrister from the left circle which deflects off a Penguins player and out of play.
0:32: Daley rockets a one-tier from the right point. Zatkoff gloves it.
0:03: As Kunitz's minor expires, Seguin lifts a wrister from above the left circle over the cage.
0:00: Getting loose on the right wing after the penalty box, Kunitz takes a pass at the Dallas blue line and hurries a slapper as the horn sounds. Lehtonen kicks it out. End of period. Penguins 2, Stars 1.
-That was a slightly disjointed period with relatively little flow. That said, the Penguins had the bulk of quality play. The spent a slight majority of it in the Stars' zone.
-The Penguins' top line looks a ton better with Chris Kunitz. You don't really realize what he offers that line until he's missing. Crosby's seemed to have a lot more space with him in there.
-We're not sure we saw much from the second line with Neal back in the lineup.
-Brandon Sutter seemed to have a little extra juice in his game tonight. He's been marooned on the fourth line and had his spot on the junior varsity power play taken away. He wasn't even used on the first power-play unit Dan Bylsma used that period. He only logged 36 seconds of penalty kill time that period.
-The Penguins have a 12-8 lead in shots on net.
-The Penguins have a 19-17 lead in attempted shots.
-Crosby and Seguin each lead the game with four shots.
-Daley leads the game with 6:59 of ice time.
-Niskanen leads the Penguins with 6:50.
-Fire Joe Niewendyk.
-The Penguins have a 13-9 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-Goc is 5 for 6 (83 percent).
-Vernon Fiddler and Seguin are each 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Maatta and Orpik each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:18: Daley pumps a one-timer form the right circle. Zatkoff kicks it out.
17:21: Gibbons chases down a puck on the right wing, pulls up and backhands a pass to Sutter streaking down the slot Sutter taps the puck over the cage.
16:30: Attendance is announced as 18,659. It is the team's 318th consecutive sellout.
16:11: Seguin feeds a pass from the right circle to Chiasson in the slot. They fail to connect on on the pass.
15:52: A backhander by Chiasson from in tight is smothered by Zatkoff.
15:14: Despres chucks a wrister from the right half wall. Lehtonen steers it away.
13:55: Crosby races with the puck up ice, gains the Dallas blue line and dekes around Jordie Benn. He flips a backhand shot wide which Lehtonen denies.
12:24: Roussel gain the offensive zone on the right wing an deals a bacbkanded pass to Eakin above the left circle. Eakon rips a wrister to the far side which Zatkoff coolly gloves.
11:50: The Penguins dodge one. Niskanen pinches in the neutral zone and allows the Stars to create a two-on-one against Orpik. With Jamie Benn in the left circle, Seguin lifts a wrister well over the cage. Oof. The Stars missed a nice opportunity there.
11:32: Orpik chucks a wrister on net from the left circle. Lehtonen fights it off.
10:40: Colton Scevior chucks a wrister from the right circle wide of the cage.
9:18: Jamie Benn whacks a wild one-timer from the right point over the cage.
8:43: Seguin hustles by Adams in the neutral zone, gains the Penguins' blue line and whips a backhander by Orpik on the far side.
7:50: Taking a pass in the neutral zone, Jokinen pushes his way up the left wing and lifts a wrister which Lehtonen fights off.
6:39: Welcome to Pittsburgh Lee Stempniak. Taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby in the right circle. Kunitz feeds a gentle pass to Stempniak into the slot. Stempniak muscles his way by Brenden Dillon, goes backhand/forehand and clunks a wrister under the glove hand of Lehtonen. He crashes down to the ice to the right of the cage and celebrate his first goal with the Penguins. Kunitz and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 3-1.
5:23: A wrister by Gibbons from the left circle is denied by Lehtonen.
5:03: Sceviour chucks a wrister from the left half wall. Zatkoff holds it out as Fiddler crashes in. Maatta and Scuderi battle a few Stars players for position as the puck comes to a rest on the goal line. Officials blow play dead.
3:29: The great Joe Vitale thumps into the Dallas end boards and forces a turnover.
2:31: On a three-on-three rush. Crosby pushes the puck up the left wing. As Kunitz drives to the net, Crosby deals a pass to Stempniak trailing in the slot. Stempniak lifts a wrister which Lehtonen fights off.
2:27: Off their "quick draw" faceoff play in the Stars' left circle, Malkin clunks a puck back to Neal. Neal rips a wrister which gets blocked.
0:52: Orpik chucks a wrister from the left point. Lehtonen kicks it out.
0:28: The Stars will get late power play as the great Joe Vitale is called for slashing Chris Mueller on a shot attempt in the right circle. Adams, Goc, Orpik and Scuderi take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Stars 1.
-The Stars had a little bit of pushback that period. They created a few more quality scoring chances. Despite that, the Penguins still managed to increase their lead.
-We're been somewhat impressed by the "new" defensive pairings tonight. Maatta and Scuderi have meshed pretty well while Bortuzzo and Despres have had chemistry going back to their days in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Orpik-Niskanen pairing appears to be a work in progress. Orpik has been pretty steady while Niskanen has had a rough game to this point with a turnover and a bad pinch which led to a two-on-one for the Stars.
-So far so good for Jeff Zatkoff. He hasn't really fought the puck that much and has made a few tough saves.
-If the Penguins are sending a message to Brandon Sutter, it appears to be received thus far. He's been involved in a handful of scoring chances of varying quality.
-Marcel Goc looks more than comfortable in a third-line role.
-Kunitz, Crosby and Stempniak looked pretty comfortable that period.
-Seguin looks like he wants to do some damage.
-The Penguins lead in shots on net, 21-17.
-The Penguins have a 37-36 lead in attempted shots.
-Crosby leads the game with five shots.
-Seguin leads the Stars with four shots.
-Goligoski leads the game with 15:33 of ice time.
-Orpik leads the Penguins with 14:23.
-The Penguins have a 21-17 lead in faceoffs (55 percent).
-Goc is 8 for 11 (73 percent).
-Seguin, Scevior and Eakin are each 3 for 5 (60 percent).
-Maatta, Scuderi, Orpik, Despres and Daley each lead the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Stars will have 1:31 of power play time on fresh ice. xx take the ice.
18:29: The vitale minor iskille with little threat.
18:09: Goc pushes teh puc up the right wing against Dillon and chucks a wrister on net. Lehtonen eats it up.
18:04: Matt Niskanen makes amends. After Crosby wins a faceoff in the Stars' right circle. Kunitz plays the puck to Kunitz at the right point Niskanen swats a one-timer on net which Lehtonen saves. The rebound slides to the right of the crease where Crosby kicks it to his stick and punks it behind Lehtonen on the glove hand side. Stempniak and Niskanen get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 4, Stars 1.
17:50: Another power play for the Penguins. Kunitz was hooked up by Garbutt on the right wing wall. That's two minutes for hooking. Malkin, Niskanen,
17:37: A one-timer by Malkin from the right circle is rejected by Lehtonen.
17:22: Creating a two-on-one against Niskanen. Eakin pushes a puck up the left wing and lifts a wrister which Zatoff fights off. Eakin continues towards the net and bumps into Zatkoff who falls over. A scrum develops in the Penguins' crease. Eakin is immediately sent off to the penalty box. Eventually he is send to the dressing room. Dillon and Kunitz carry on and each of them are sent to the penalty box. It looked like Kunitz might have speared Dillon. He will get a double minor for roughing. The Penguins will still have a five-on-four power play for 1:32. Crosby, Neal, Niskanen, Jokinen and Malkin take the ice.
16:56: Off a give and go with Malkin, Jokinen lifts a wrister from the right circle. Lehtonen fights it off.
16:41: Crosby golfs a one-timer from the right point Lehtonen snags it.
16:01: A wrister by Benn is denied by Zatkoff.
14:38: Gibbons blocks a wrister by Daley.
15:50: Garbutt's minor expires.
12:12: A wrister by Jamie Benn from the slot is wide of the cage.
11:01: HUGE save. Lehonen flings a puck up from his own net to the neutral zone. Roussel pushes the puck past the Penguins' blue line and blow by Bortuzzo as well as Scuderi. He attacks on his forehand and tires to sneak in a shot through Zatkoff's five hole. Zatkoff challenges with a poke check and smothers the puck.
9:55: Lehtonen matches that save. Off a neutral zone turnover by Goligoski, Jokinen feeds a pass from the right circle to Malkin driving down the slot. Malkin taps a puck on net. Lehtonen reads it all the way and eats up the shot.
9:37: Despres fumbles a puck in his left circle . Sceviour picks it up and tries to flip a backhand shot but puts it off the side of the cage. He collects the rebound behind the cage and tries to go with a forehand wraparound. Neal backcheck and steals the puck. Huge play by Neal.
9:20: Malkin tries to jam in a forehand shot from the right of the cage. Lehtonen holds it out.
9:08: Malkin is called for tripping Garbutt behind the Dallas net. That's two minutes. Adams, Goc, Scuderi and Orpik take the ice.
8:35: Taking a pass in the slot, Whitney whips a wrister which Zatkoff eats up.
8:25: Jamie Benn lifts a slapper from the right half wall. Zatkoff fights it off.
7:29: Seguin swats a shot from the right circle.
7:16: Brandon Sutter is redeemed. Gibbons chips a puck up the right wing wall of his own zone up ice. Sutter picks it up and coasts in on net from the right wing. He approaches the net and flips backhander by the blocker of Lehtonen. It clunks off the left post and deflects off the left skate of Lehtonen. The puck juuuuust barely nudges over the goal line. Officials hesitate to make a call but eventually point at the net to signal a goal. Gibbons follows up on the puck to push it into the net even more just to be safe. A video review confirms the goal. Sutter needed that. Gibbons and Bortuzzo get assists. The "Hey Song' is played. Penguins 5-1.
7:12: Play returns to five on five.
6:27: Roussel moves in off the right win and attacks the net. He's able to sneak a pass to Eakin in the slot. Eakin whips a wrister into the cage with a pile of bodies in the crease. The referee immediately waves off the goal as Garbutt crashed into Zatkoff. Goaltending interference is called. Garbutt heads to the penalty box. Lindy Ruff is protesting a storm. Neal, Malkin, Niskanen, Crosby and Kunitz take the ice.
6:07: Taking a pass at the Dallas blue line, Neal blows right throw two Dallas defenders and attacks the net. He goes backhand but Lehtonen closes his five hole.
4:10: Goligoski sneaks down low an lifts a wrister from the left circle.
3:58: Crosby chips a puck from his own right circle to Jokinen at the Penguins' blue line. Jokinen hustles the puck up the ice fending off Daley. He lifts a shot over the cage from the slot.
3:30: Sutter take a pass in the slot and lifts a wrister. Lehtonen kicks it out.
1:44: Roussel is given a 10-minute misconduct after mixing it up with ahandful of Penguins palyers in the left wing corner of the Penguins' zone.
1:31: A slapper by Sceviour is kicked out by Zatkoff.
0:42: The great Joe Vitale whips a wrister on net from the right circle. Lehtonen kicks it out.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Stars 1.
-Over the past few days, plenty of amateur general managers have proclaimed the injuries of Chris Kunitz as well as James Neal this past weekend as "excuses" for the Penguins' losses to the Flyers' Saturday and Sunday. Apparently, the absence of two top-six forwards with a combined 54 goals and a handful of all-star team nominations weren't legitimate reasons that the Penguins would be an inferior squad. With that in mind, we wonder have if their presence and health tonight are legitimate reasons for the Penguins producing an impressive win.
-As we've stated before, the "injuries can't be excuses" mindset has become a mindless, thoughtless cliche in sports, especially those sports with salary cap. When you lose an all-star forward or two out of your lineup, no one can reasonably expect a team to play at the same level as it accustomed to. Saturday and Sunday, the Penguins did not play with two all-star scoring wingers and lost by a combined score of 8-3. Tonight they had two all-star scoring wingers back in their lineup and won 5-1.
-It would be naive to lump tonight's victory and change in play as strictly as a byproduct of Kunitz and Neal being back in the lineup. There were other changes which benefited the Penguins as well. But this team clearly looked so much better with those two back in the lineup.
-Kunitz was a bigger addition than Neal tonight. He meshed well with Sidney Crosby and Lee Stempniak and those three looked like Crosby, Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis at times. Kunitz helped create some space for Crosby tonight. Kunitz only logged 11:51 of ice time, but he made the most of it.
-Neal didn't have an outstanding night by any means as he was held off the scoresheet but he was involved in a handful of scoring chances and had one key defensive play when he backchecked and stripped Colton Sceviour of a puck near the Penguins' net with 9:37 remaining in play. A goal there could have made it a 4-2 game and made things a tad more interesting in the final minutes of the contest.
-Another big change was using Marcel Goc on the third line and Brandon Sutter on the fourth line. Goc took on a lot of faceoffs against the Stars top players and played a role in limiting their scoring chances. Goc even took over for Sutter in the special teams as well as he was the center for the junior varsity power play and was one of the first men over the boards for the penalty kill on several occasions.
-If the Penguins wanted to see a reaction from Sutter from his demotion, they certainly got a positive one. He was involved in a handful of scoring chances of varying quality while playing with Craig Adams and Brian Gibbons. And his short-handed goal was a thing of beauty (with a little bit of luck). Sutter made sure the coaching staff was aware he wants his old job back on the third line.
-We liked the defensive pairings as well. Olli Maatta and Rob Scuderi looked like hey had played together for years. Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres had a fairly clean game aside from one ugly turnover by Despres. Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen saw plenty of assignments against the Stars' top line and Niskanen had a few iffy plays, but they eventually rounded into shape.
-Jeff Zatkoff played one of his better games of the year. He got a little lucky with the Stars missing the net on some quality scoring chances. On a few of those chances, they hit the side of he net or the post, but Zatkoff kicked out a lot of safe rebounds and didn't allow too many second chance rebounds.
-If this game was replayed a few days later, we have a feeling you would see a much better effort by the Stars' offense. They missed quite a few shots. Tyler Seguin, one of the most dynamic players in the NHL, had a clean look at a two-on-one early in the second period and whipped it over the net. A goal there would have made it 2-2.
-Kari Lehtonen was okay. He was coming back into the lineup after dealing with a concussion. If he was rusty, the Penguins did what they could to take advantage of it.
-The Penguins' power play had a few quality chances but failed to convert on three chances. Conversely, their penalty kill had a strong rebound after a rough weekend by going 3 for 3.
-The Stars led in shots on net, 33-32.
-The Stars led in attempted shots 59-51.
-Crosby led the game with seven shots.
-Seguin led the Stars with six shots.
-Alex Goligoski led the game with 23:25 of ice time.
-Fire Ray Shero.
-Scuderi led the Penguins with 21:36.
The Penguins led in faceoffs, 31-24 (56 percent).
-Goc was 10 for 16 (63 percent).
-Cody Eakin was 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Orpik led the game with four blocked shots.
-Daley led the Stars with two blocked shots.
-Lee Stempniak is the 469th player to score a regular season goal for the Penguins.
-Kunitz scored his eight game-winning goal of the season. The franchise record is 12 set by Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96.
-Kunitz tied his career best in points with 61.
-Niskanen now has 40 points. Dang.
-Crosby broke through the 90-point barrier this season and is now up to 91.