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Despite no postseason hopes, Vitale happy with Coyotes - 03-20-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

This spring will be different for Joe Vitale.

He won't be in the postseason.

In the three previous seasons, Vitale's time in April and May was usually occupied by the Penguins' berths in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Now a member of the Arizona Coyotes, owners of the NHL's second-worst record at 21-42-8, Vitale's season will come to an end April 11. In 59 games this season, Vitale has has seven points (three goals, four assists).

With 11 games remaining, Vitale, a bottom-six center, and the Coyotes are trying to break out of 1-15-1 skid. They'll get their first chance to do that Saturday at home against the Penguins.

Earlier today, Vitale, who signed a three-year contract with the Coyotes worth $3.35 million this past offseason, talked via phone about life in Arizona.

---

How is your season going?

"Obviously a little rocky here. Full of a lot of ups and downs. It's been a crazy summer leading up to coming out there to Arizona. A whole adjustment of being on a new team. Obviously we've struggled this year and struggled as of late. But I found a lot of positives. The guys in the room are great. [Coyotes captain/forward] Shane Doan, starting with him. An incredible leader, an incredible person. We're finding our way. We're trying to finish the last 11 games and find some sort of identity in the group. A lot of young guys right now. Definitely a different situation. A lot different than Pittsburgh for sure. A lot of growing pains for sure."

Are you basically used in the same role as you were with the Penguins?

"Yeah, yeah for sure. I think I started out with an adjustment personally. Anytime you join a new group, there's growing pains. There's an adjustment. I think I got through that the first month or so. Found my niche. I think the coaches here in the organization know what to expect out of me, what I bring. As of late, I've found some consistency in my game and hopefully I finish off the regular season on a high note playing the way I know I can."

What is it like playing for head coach Dave Tippett?

"I like Dave a lot. He's been great to me. He's given me a great, great opportunity. He's definitely a coach I respect. I think he's one of the best in the league. You learn a lot from him. I appreciate his style. I play the way he wants to play. It fits the type of player I am. He's given me great opportunity. When you have that well-respected coach, you tend to learn a lot and pick up anything you can."

The last few seasons, you were on a team which was trying to put the finishing touches on the regular season heading into the postseason. Now, you're team is out of playoff contention. How different is that?

"It's hard to put into words. It's definitely different. Obviously, being in Pittsburgh, this time of the year you're kind of in no-man's land as far as how far you're going to go, how deep you're going to play. You know you're going to play in the playoffs. Right now [with the Coyotes], knowing you're not going to be playing in the playoffs, it's definitely a little bit of a downer. It's a grind as it is. You're on game 70 or whatever. It's been a long season. When you're not in the hunt, like we're not right now, it definitely makes things a lot tougher. You play to play the playoffs. You play to win the Stanley Cup. When you don't have the opportunity to do that, it makes things a lot tougher. That pain, that kind of unsettling feeling, you just kind of got to remember it heading into future seasons when you're making a push late in the year to be in the position you want to be in."

What as this past offseason like for you?

"Obviously, everything shaked out in Pittsburgh. Guys had some sort of idea that were going to be changes made from above. It was shocking on my end and I think for a lot of guys to see Ray [Shero] go as [general manager]. Yeah, that was a bit shocking. But that happened but everyone kind of felt the coaches would follow suit. It was kind of shocking to see everything shake down the way it did.

Then seeing [left winger James Neal] get traded and some of the bigger end guys. The [defenseman] Brooks Orpik signing [with the Capitals] was big. The whole flip of the team and how things were done there. The ownership did their job of how they wanted to switch things up. What they were doing wasn't working so obviously you understand their situation with how things had to be changed. It's still different to see so many faces gone and new people come in.

Then July hit. Pittsburgh and I were kind of at a mutual agreement that were going to part way andkind move on. That was a big adjustment for me. Then to sign with Arizona was obviously a blessing. I think it was a situation where the team needed a fourth-line guy like myself and for me to come in here and sign a long-term deal for three years was obviously a huge opportunity for myself and my family."

For a player who was a low-round draft pick and spent several seasons in the AHL, how significant was it getting the commitment of a a three-year contract for significant money?

"It's a feeling I never had before. Like you said, a seventh-round pick. Spent a few years in the minors. Get called up, get sent down, get called up again. Finally, scratched and clawed to make the team out of camp [in 2011-12]. Then, even when you're on the team, you're scratched here and there a bunch. It was always like, yeah, you're in the NHL but it can be taken from you at any moment. That's the kind of life I always had in Pittsburgh. A lot of it was good for me but a lot of it was so hard. Any moment it could be gone. I could be sent down to the minors. To have a staff to instill that belief in you that we believe you're an NHL player and you belong here and you're a big part of where were going and the direction we're heading. It was a huge load of confidence for me to know that someone feels that strongly for me as a player. That was a big deal. It was huge for my family. It was huge for me personally to have a lot of that stress off my shoulders finally after all those years of playing pro."

(Photos: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Empty Netter Assists - Recapping Penguins-Stars - 03-20-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-The Post-Gazette's recap from last night's game. “I thought we competed better for half the game. But it has to be the full game.” - Mike Johnston.

-The Dallas Morning News' recap. “When it came to the battle sense, I think he led our team." - Stars coach Lindy Ruff on captain/forward Jamie Benn.

-The Associated Press' recap. ''Regardless of who it is, we've got to collectively find a way to produce more goals. This time of year, the games are 3-2, 2-1 type of games. We still have to find a way to generate more offense.'' - Sidney Crosby.

-Highlights:

-Mike Lange's goal calls call.

-Blake Comeau had a screen set up on Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen:

-Lehtonen snagged this puck:

-Stars forward Vernon Fiddler is stretchy:

-Mike Johnston speaks:

-Crosby speaks:

-Kris Letang speaks:

-There was no official word on the condition of Steve Downie who left the game in the third period after a collision.

-Kris Letang was named the Penguins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy.

-“It’s definitely an area that we’ve identified as being an issue at times. And you know what? We’ve put ourselves in that position, and we have to be better. There’s no question." - Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin's reaction when it was suggested his team whines too much.

-“Players [the stars] are accountable now. You used to be able to cheat [to get points]. To get 125 points in a season, you have to cheat every once in a while. Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit could have 110 points but he’s so complete a player, best in the league. He wins awards for his defence. The good teams don’t cheat, at all. I mean how good is [Kings forward Anze] Kopitar? He could be a 90-point guy, but he’s a two-way guy.” - Former Penguins forward Rob Brown on why scoring is down in the NHL.

-Could Penguins forward prospects Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins once their European teams' seasons are done?

-Are Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Harrington the best trio of defensemen in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history?

-Happy 30th birthday to former Penguins forward Ryan Stone. A second-round pick in 2003, Stone spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. As a rookie in 2007-08, he played in six games and recorded one assist. He followed that up in 2008-09 by seeing action in two games and failing to net a point. During the 2009 offseason, Stone joined the Oilers as a free agent.

-Happy 61st birthday to former Penguins forward Charlie Simmer (right). Far more renown for his days as an all-star with the Kings and the "Triple Crown Line," Simmer was claimed by the Penguins off waivers from the Bruins prior to the 1987-88 season. He appeared in 50 games for the Penguins that season and recorded 28 points. The following season, he joined Eintracht Frankfurt in West Germany. At the time of his retirement as a professional player in 1992, he was the last active California Golden Seal and NHL Cleveland Barons. Formerly married to 1981 Playmate of the Year Terri Welles, Simmer currently works as a broadcaster for the Flames.

-Today would've been the 73rd birthday of former Penguins defenseman Bill Speer. A member of the first Penguins team in 1967-68, Speer spent the first two seasons of his NHL career in Pittsburgh. As a rookie in 1967-68, he saw action in 68 games and scored 16 points. He followed that up in 1968-69 by playing in 34 games and scoring five points. During the 1969 off season, he was selected by the Bruins in an intra-league draft. In 102 games with the Penguins, Speer recorded 21 points. He was killed in a snowmobile accident in 1989 at the age of 47.

-After the Jump: A big win for the Senators and another milestone for Jaromir Jagr.

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State basketball championship predictions

Written by Mike White on .

Before we get to the predictions for the state championships, let's talk attendance.

It will be interesting to see what attendance will be like this weekend in Hershey for the PIAA championships. It probably won't be good. 

The reason? Philadelphia Public and Catholic League teams.

Six of the eight teams in the PIAA boys championships are from the Philadelphia Catholic and Public League. Over the years, one thing has been proven: A number of the teams from those leagues bring nobody. Philadelphia teams have hurt attendance over the years.

Last year, attendance for the games was a little more than 20,000. New Castle's great following helped that. There is no New Castle this year. The year before, attendance was 24,582.

From 2007-12, the games were played at Penn State, and attendance dropped every year. In 2007, the games drew 33,008 in State College. The following four years, attendance was 22,539, 18,620, 16,976 and 15,392. Philadelphia teams had a big effect on that drop.

Predictions 

BOYS

Aliquippa vs. Conwell-Egan - The undefeated Quips have rolled in the PIAA playoffs, winning every game by 24 points or more. This one won't be a blowout. Conwell-Egan is a Philly Catholic League team and it has played some of the best teams in Philly. The teams look to be about even in size. Key to the game is whether Conwell-Egan turns over the ball against Aliquippa's defense. Also, look for Aliquippa's Chucky Humphries to possibly be a difference. Winner: Aliquippa.

Roman Catholic vs. Martin Luther King - A tossup game. Both teams have good guard play. Guard Tony Carr is ranked among the best 100 juniors in the country. He could be the deciding factor. Winner: Roman Catholic.

Archbishop Carroll vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is going for its fifth title in six years. Division I college talent is on both teams. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Constitution vs. Farrell - Constitution has won its four PIAA playoff games by an average of close to 40 points a game. It's hard to see Farrell winning, especially without starting point guard Jamel Brown, who was arrested on drug charges Monday. Winner: Constitution.

GIRLS

Blackhawk vs. Archbishop Wood - I keep thinking this Blackhawk team isn't as good as last year's that won a PIAA title. But the Cougars just keep doing enough to win. Blackhawk beat Wood in last year's title game. Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso has been terrific, but her supporting cast will be key to this game. Winner: Blackhawk.

Seton-LaSalle vs. Neumann-Goretti - Neumann-Goretti is ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today. I say no way a Class AA team is the best in the country. But will the Saints be the best in Pennsylvania? Guard play will be interesting to watch because both teams have two guards headed to Division I colleges. That means the game could be won on the inside. Winner: Neumann-Goretti.

Vincentian vs. Old Forge - Vincentian pounded Old Forge in last year's title game and it could be more of the same this year. Old Forge doesn't have a starter taller than 5-7. Enough said. Brenna Wise will end her wonderful career in style. Winner: Vincentian.

Cumberland Valley vs. Central Bucks West - Cumberland Valley is the defending champion. That's enough for me. Winner: Cumberland Valley.

 

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Penguins at Stars - 03-19-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

PREGAME

-Christian Ehrhoff might be the key to the Penguins' offensive woes. If nothing else, he's key to them getting their shot totals up. Here are the Penguins' leaders in shots on net in the past three games:

Player, position Shots
Christian Ehrhoff, D 14
Ian Cole, D 11
Patric Hornqvist, RW 11
Sidney Crosby, C 10
Blake Comeau, LW 10
David Perron, LW 8
Steve Downie, RW 6
Brandon Sutter, C 6
Kris Letang, D 4
Ben Lovejoy, 4 4
Paul Martin, D 4
Beau Bennett, RW 3
Chris Kunitz, LW 3
Rob Scuderi, D 3
Nick Spaling, C 3
Daniel Winnik, C 3
Craig Adams, RW 2
Maxim Lapierre, C 2
Andrew Ebbett, C 1
Evgeni Malkin, C 0

-Ehrhoff, and Cole for that matter, haven't been afraid to fire the puck. Maybe giving them a little more power-play time would help that unit, provided the officials see fit to give it a chance.

-Full credit to Ehrhoff and Cole, but defensemen on the bottom two pairings shouldn't be leading the team in shots, even with a small window of three games as context.

-Pay attention to Stars rookie defenseman John Klingberg. He's been a nice surprise this season. A fifth-round pick in 2010, he has 10 goals and 36 points, tops among all rookie defenseman. It's a nice number just on its own but it's an even more remarkable number when you consider he used to be a forward up until he was 15 years old. That's a little late in life to try an learn a new position. Yet, here he is doing it at a pretty high level at the NHL level. He's blessed with a solid point shot and an aggressive offensive nature. He's become a surprising candidate for the Calder Trophy.

-In writing our game previewing, we forgot how much of a terror Jason Spezza was against the Penguins. He feasted on them during his time with the Senators. In 37 career games against the Penguins, he has 45 points. The Penguins probably didn't mind him jumping ship from Ottawa this past offseason.

-The Stars have to be one of the NHL's biggest disappointments this season. After making a mad rush to the postseason last season, they areone of the worst teams in the Western Conference.

-A lot of it has to do with their goaltending. Kari Lehtonen just hasn't been consistent for them. It's staggering to think Lehtonen ($6.25 million) has a significantly higher salary cap hit than Marc-Andre Fleury ($5 million).

-Longtime EN reader Jake Whitco sends in a few jersey sightings:

Crosby, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury:

-Daris Kasparaitis:

-Neal Broten and Joe Niewendyk:

-Marty Turco:

-Evgeni Malkin Cyrillic:

Per the team's Web site, the Penguins' lines will be:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Blake Comeau
Nick Spaling - Brandon Sutter - David Perron
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Ebbett - Steve Downie
Beau Bennett - Maxim Lapierre - Craig Adams

-After Tuesday's shutout to the Devils, we suppose anything should be considered with the lines. It seemed liked Comeau and Crosby had a little chemistry Tuesday.

-The Penguins' starters are Blake Comeau, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

-Their scratches are Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin.

-The Stars' starters are Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, Tyler Seguin, Alex Goligoski, Jyrki Jokipakka and Kari Lehtonen.

-Their scratches are Trevor Daley, Patrick Eaves and Travis Moen.

FIRST PERIOD

18:36: Brett Ritchie races up the right wing, spins off a check from Ehrhoff and whips a backhander on net. Fleury makes the save and fends off the mad scramble for the rebound. A small scrum develops but nothings comes of it.

17:54: Off a neutral zone steal, Sutter races up the right wing on a two-on-one with Perron. He forces a pass to Perron but Jordie Benn is able to break it up.

17:48: Wide on the left wing, Antoine Roussel lifts a wrister over the net.

17:45: Colton Sceviour settles the rebound on the right half wall and puts a wrister off the side of the cage.

17:23: Ryan Garbutt has a clean look in the slot but a Comeau hooks his stick and prevents a shot. Nice defensive play. Vernon Fiddler settles the rebound in the right circle. His shot is blocked by Letang.

16:34: Off the left wing, Bennett veers to the high slot and lobs a wrister through traffic. Lehtonen fights it off.

15:59: Deep on the right wing, Ritchie lifts a wrister off the side of the net.

15:28: Off a defensive zone turnover by Scuderi, Spezza has a prime chance in tight but can't settle the puck enough to beat Fleury. Ebbett appeared to break up the chance a bit.

15:25: Spezza gets another chance with a wrister in the right circle. Fleury steers it away.

13:34: Seguin sneaks a pass from above the left circle to Jokipakka streaking up the right wing. Jokipakka snaps off a wrister from the right circle. Fleury kicks it out. Jokipakka gets his own rebound and fires it wide on the near side.

12:09: Off a feed by Scuderi, Cole strokes a slapper from the right point which deflects wide.

11:03: Whoa! The Penguins get a power play? Eakin is called for holding Martin. Crosby, Kunitz, Perron, Ehrhoff and Letang take the ice.

9:03: Two minutes later, the Penguins did next to nothing with that chance.

6:52: A slapper by Jokipakka is fought off by Fleury.

6:40: Off a drop pass from Crosby, Comeau crosses up with Crosby in the high slot and rips a wrister which Goligoski blocks. Comeau recovers his rebound in the left wing corner and deals to Ehrhoff at the left point. Ehrhoff blasts a one-timer which Lehtonen fights off.

6:35: Crosby tries to skate out from behind the Dallas net with the puck. Comeau tries to help him with a pick against Goligoski. Goligoski spills onto the ice. That's an easy interference minor for Comeau. Winnik, Lapierre, Scuderi and Letang take the ice.

6:27: Klingberg tosses a wrister from the center point which deflects wide.

6:11: Taking a cross-ice feed by Spezza, Klingberg lifts a wrister from the right circle. Letang blocks it out of play.

6:02: Spezza chucks wrister from the right half wall which Fleury fights off.

5:48: Jamie Benn snaps off a wrister from the left circle which deflects out of play.

5:37: Short-handed, Winnik chases down a loose puck on the Dallas' left half wall and chops a slap-pass to Lapierre in the slot but they fail to connect. Lapierre was all alone.

5:01: A slapper by Jason Demers from the right half wall is delfected wide.

4:29: As Comeau's minor expires, Horcoff chops a slapper from the right circle. Fleury punches it away with his blocker.

4:23: Horcoff swipes a shot from the left circle wide on the near side.

4:17: Demers chucks a wrister from the left half wall on net. Fleury steers it away.

3:49: The Penguins get another power play. Comeau tries to push a puck out of his own zone. As he approached the blue line, Demers tried to hip check him but ended up pulling off a leg sweep and tripped Comeau. That's two minutes for tripping. Crosby, Perron, Kunitz, Ehrhoff and Letang take the ice.

3:27: Ehrhoff snaps off a wrister from the center point. Lehtonen fends it off. Letang and Perron each have chances at the rebound but can't beat Lehtonen.

3:18: The rebound skids out to the left half wall. Letang retrieves it and deals a pass to EHrhoff at center point. Ehrhoff immediately firs a one-timer which Lehtonen kicks out again.

2:41: Ehrhoff whacks a slapper from the left half wall. Lehtonen fights it off.

2:31: Letang backpeddles to the center point and whacks a slapper. Fiddler blocks it.

2:02: After Sutter gains the offensive zone, he directs the puck to the slot. Comeau corrals it and puts a little forehand shot on net from the right of the crease. Lehtonen smothers it.

1:56: Off the ensuing faceoff in the Stars' left circle, Cole pounds a slapper from the right point. Lehtonen steers it away.

1:27: Comeau grips and rips an off-balance wrister from the right circle. Lehtonen snags it.

1:05: Ebbett tries to drive a puck through four Stars players in Dallas' left circle. He takes an exaggerated tumble to the ice after losing the puck and is probably lucky not to have drawn an embellishment penalty.

0:27: Using Letang as a screen, Ritchie rips a wrister from the left half wall wide to the far side.

0:09: Letang tries to chip and chase the puck up the left wing but is interfered with by Curtis McKenzie. Play moves behind the net where McKenzie has Letang pinned against the boards. He ends up knocking off Letang's helmet and they nearly get into a fight as play is blown dead. Letang and McKenzie each get double roughing minors. If an official had called McKenzie for interference, a lot of that would have been avoided:

0:00: End of period. Penguins 0, Stars 0.

SECOND INTERMISSION

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-That last little bit of interference not withstanding, that was a pretty free-flowing period. The Stars had the early advantage before the Penguins leveled off things.

-Ehrhoff sure doens't mind shooting.

-Lehtonen looked pretty tuned in.

-We don't have any intermission statistics due to technical difficulties. Our apologies.

SECOND PERIOD

18:42: Demers corrals a puck on the left point, moves into the left circle and whacks a slapper which Fleury boots out.

18:37: As Fleury tries to smother a rebound to the right of the cage, Garbutt ends up catching him on the side of the head and dislodging his helmet. Play is blown dead. Fleury takes a moment to collect himself and remains in the game.

18:20: Downie goes wide on the left wing and lifts a wrister over the cage.

17:46: The Stars strike first. Jamie Benn beats Martin to a puck dumped into the Penguins' left wing corner. He collects the puck, turns and deals a backhanded pass to Brett Ritchie to the left of the crease. Ritchie fends off Ehrhoff and tries to deal a pass to Horcoff to the right of the crease. Bennett races back on a backcheck and breaks up the pass but ends up deflects it into his own cage. Doh! Ritchie gets credit for the goal. Benn and Klingberg get assists. Stars 1-0.

16:50: Sutter appears to get away with holding the stick of Garbutt in the Penguins' left wing corner.

16:28: The Stars double up. Seguin corrals a puck on the left half wall and snaps off a pass to Jamie Benn above the crease. Benn is all alone and has a forehand shot denied by Fleury's right leg. Benn, still alone above the crease, is able to tuck the rebound by Fleury's right leg just as Perron arrives with a late hit. Where was the Penguins' defense? The Stars' first line e just dominated the Penguins in their own zone. Segin and Eakin get assists. Stars 2-0.

15:49: Off a defensive zone steal, Crosby tries to lead a two-on-one rush up the left wing with Kunitz against Demers. He forces a pass to Kunitz in the slot but Demers reads the play perfectly and breaks up the pass.

15:18: Off a neutral zone steal by Winnik, Ebbett rips a wrister from the high slot. Lehtonen fights it off.

15:08: Jamie Benn leads a four-on-one rush up the left wing against Cole. From the left wing, he plays hot potato with his brother, Jordie Benn, and they overpass it and fail to get a shot off.

14:34: Comeau is called for roughing Garbutt. This is a big two minutes for the Penguins Letang, Scuderi, Lapierre and Winnik take the ice.

14:26: Ritchie lifts a wrister from above the left circle. Fleury snags it.

14:18: Above the crease, Jamie Benn tries to glove a high puck and place it down on the ice for a tight shot but Fleury smothers it.

13:59: Seguin rips a wrister from above the left circle. Fleury fights it off.

12:34: Comeau's minor is killed. The Stars had a few quality chances there. 

11:30: Hemsky tries to push a puck up the right wing by Martin. Martin leans in with a poke check and breaks the play up.

11:24: Lovejoy appears to get away with boarding against Roussel in the right wing corner. Either that or Roussel appears to get away with a dive.

11:13: Letang slams Hemsky with a strong hit behind the Penguins' net.

11:08: Roussel chucks a wrister from the left half wall. Fleury smothers it.

10:30: Sceviour has wrister from above the right circle blocked.

10:18: Letang and Eakin mix exchange words at center ice and Letang heads to he bench. He mouths off to referee Justin St. Pierre from the bench. As Mike Johnston appears to grab him on the shoulder  to shut him up, Letang then offers a mock clap for St. Pierre. That rings up Letang for unsportsmanlike conduct. What a stupid, stupid penalty to take. He put his team in a bad positioin. Winnik, Lapierre, Scuderi and Lovejoy take the ice.

9:40: Klingberg snaps off a wrister from center point. Fleury kicks it out.

9:03: Seguin rips a wrister from the left half wall. It clears the net, hits the far corner boards and clears the zone.

8:18: Letang's minor is killed. He owes the penalty killers a beer.

8:12: Ehrhoff whacks a slapper from the left point wideon the near side.

8:08: Letang is tripped up by Goligosk and/or dives to the left of the Dallas net. No calls.

6:42: The Penguins get a much needed power play. Spaling drives to the net from the left circle and is tripped up by Spezza. That's a minor. Crosby, Kunitz, Perron, Ehrhoff and Letang take the ice.

6:34: Off the ensuing faceoff in the left circle, Ehrhoff makes a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the left point. He gets it to Crosby above the right circle. Crosby goes deep on the right wing and backhands to Letang in the left circle. Letang snaps off a tricky wrister which beats Lehtonen through the five hole. Kunitz had a nice screen on the shot. Letang needed that badly. Crosby and Ehrhoff get assists. Stars 2-1.

5:50: Spaling backhands a puck up the left wing to Comeau at the Stars' left wing. Comeau attacks the net, cuts in side Jokipakka and rips a wrister from the slot. Lehtonen fends it off.

5:00: McKenzie whacks a one-timer from the left circle. Fleury swats it away with his glove hand.

4:33: Downie fires a slapper from the left wing which knocks Jokipakka's stick out of his hands.

4:34: Ebbett sails a wrister from the right point wide to the far side.

4:18: Winnik slinks his way from behind the net with a nifty move to the slot and lifts a wrister which hits off Downie's right ribs. Downie had battled Jokipakka for position and fell down then inadvertently blocked the shot.

3:56: Kunitz corrals a puck at the left point and whacks a slapper. Lehtonen absorbs it.

3:41: Perron whips a wrister from the right half wall. Lehtonen snags it.

3:18: Perron takes a tumble on the left wing and swipes at the puck. He ends up tripping Demers. No call.

2:51: Roussel rips a deflected shot on net from the right point. Fleury smothers it.

2:40: Hemsky curls and drags the puck off the left half wall and rips a wrister which Fleury fights off.

2:00: Off a point-to-point feed by Scuderi, Cole whacks a one-timer from the right point. Lehtonen fights it off.

1:19: Letang fires a shot from the right point which deflects wide to the far side.

1:11: Ebbett chops a one-timer from the high slot which bounces wide.

0:47: Spaling chucks a wrister from the left wing wall wide to the far side.

0:42: Lovejoy settles a puck at the right point and chops it wide on the near side.

0:00: End of period. As players head off the ice, Kunitz takes a jab at Roussel. Then Downie spears him. Downie gets nabbed for slashing. Another dumb penalty. Stars 2, Penguins 1.

SECOND INTERMISSION

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-That could have gone a lot worse for The Penguins. They're lucky to escape with a one-goal deficit.

-Each goaltender has been pretty sharp thus far.

-Comeau keeps finding ways to get shots off. Ditto Cole.

-The Stars sure have an annoying team. They have tons of guys like Garbutt, McKenzie and Roussel you just want to sock in the face.

-The Stars lead in shots on net, 22-17.

-The Stars lead in attempted shots, 48-38

-Ritchie leads the game with five shots.

-Letang leads the Penguins with three shots.

-Martin leads the game with 15:31 of ice time.

-Goligoski leads the Stars with 14:58 of ice time.-The Stars control faceoffs, 24-16 (60 percent).-Spezza is 10 for 12 (83 percent).-Crosby is 6 for 12 (50 percent).-Letang leads the game with four blocked shots.

-Garbutt leads the Stars with three blocked shots.

THIRD PERIOD

20:00 The Stars will start the period with with two minutes of power-play time on fresh ice. Lapierre, Spaling, Letang and Scuderi take the ice.

19:31: A slapper by Klingberg is off the mark.

18:45: Demers rips a wrister from

18:39: Lapierre tries to push the puck up the right wing but is slammed to the ice on a nice shoulder check by Demers at the Dallas' blue line.

18:12: Adams races up the right wing and rips a wrister on net. Lehtonen fights it off.

18:00: Downie's minor expires with minimal threat by the Stars.

17:13: Off a feed by Perron, Sutter races up the right wing and lifts a rising wrister which Lehtonen fights off.

16:21: Ebbett pushes a puck up the left wing and fires a wrister which Goligoski deflects out of play with his stick.

15:49: Letang is tripped up in the neutral zone. Letang responds by knocking him down away from the puck. No penalties.

14:58: Taking a feed from Comeau at the right point, Lovejoy fires a slapper wide on the near side.

14:48: Sceviour races up the right wing and lifts a wrister which Fleury fights off.

14:03: Patrik Nemeth gains the offensive zone on the left wing and pops a slapper from the point. Fleury snags it.

13:40: McKenzie curls and drags a puck off the left wing around a sliding poke check by Martin and lifts a wrister which Fleury deflects out of play. Big save by Fleury.

13:19: Perron whips a puck from the right circle wide of the the cage. Ehrhoff corrals the rebound above the left circle and pounds a one-timer which is blocked. Sutter settles the rebound in the high slot and backhands it over the cage.

12:12: Kunitz hammers a one-timer from the left point. It hits off the stick of Jamie Benn in the slot and glances off the near post.

12:01: A wrister by Martin from the right point is blocked by Eakin.

11:28: Ebbett tries to tuck a puck in from the right of the net but Lehtonen fights it off.

11:05: After icing the puck, the Stars call a timeout to get a breather.

10:43: Crosby drives to the net down the slot and is held up by Jokipakka. He crashes into net as Lehotnen fends off a puck. That's a holding minor for Jokipakka. This is a big two minutes. Crosby, Letang, Ehrhoff, Kunitz and Perron take the ice.

10:34: A wrister by Ehrhoff from the left circle hits Kunitz in the leg.

10:29: Off a feed by Crosby, Letang chops a slapper from above the left circle. Lehtonen fights it off.

9:40: A wrister by Perron from the right cirlce i off the mark.

9:31: Letang appers to get away with a knee on Roussle

9:18: Crosby hammers a one-timer from the right circle wide of the cage.

9:09: Letang pounds a slapper from the left point wide of the cage.

8:43: The Jokipakka minor expires. The Penguins sure tried to fire the puck with that chance. They just couldn't get many on net.

8:26: Nemeth rips a wrister from the left point wide to the far side.

8:05: Spaling steals a puck above the left circle and cuts to the net leaving a pass for Letang. Letang taps a forehand shot on net on net which Lehtonen fights off. Lehtonen fends off a backhanded chance by Letang on a rebound.

8:45: Letang battles for a puck above the crease and is socked in the face or chest by Klingberg's right arm. Sutter then cross checks Goligoski in the back. After laying on the ice for several moments, Letang gets up and shoves Klingberg to the ice. NO CALLS.

7:17: Perron is shoved to the ice by Klingberg. Play is finally halted. Perron gets a holding minor while Klingberg is called for roughing. We'll see four on four play for two minutes.

6:45: Off an offensive zone faceoff win in the Stars' left circle, Martin pops a one-timer from above the circle which Lehtonen fights off. Comeau has a chance at the rebound above the crease but his forehand shot is denied by Lehtonen's left leg.

6:36: Off a feed by Martin, Letang curls and drags a puck around Roussel and lifts a wrister over the cage. Argh. He had a great chance there.

6:02: Ehrhoff snaps off a shot from the right point on net. Lehtonen knocks it dead and smothers the rebound as Kunitz hovers over him.

5:41: Crosby spins off a check in the right circle and backhands a shot which Lehtonen smothers.

5:17: Play returns to five on five.

4:51: Deep on the right wing, Perron fends off a check and lifts a wrister which Lehtonen eats up.

3:31: Letang whacks a slapper from the right point. Lehtonen snags it.

3:28: Off a set faceoff play in the Stars' right circle, Letang swats a one-timer from the cneter point. Lehtonen fights it off.

1:59: A few players collide at the Dallas' blue line near the Stars' bench. Downie is on the ice on his back. Play is halted. Athletic trainer Chris Stewart rushes out to attend to him. He eventually recovers to skates and returns to the bench but even stumbles a bit as he does. That's not good.

1:40: Fleury is pulled for an extra attacker.

1:10: The Penguins call a timeout to get organized.

0:10: Jokipakka air mails a wrister from his own left circle wide of the cage. That's icing. Bad play by Jokipakka.

0:00: End of game. Stars 2, Penguins 1.

POSTGAME

-First things first, Mike Johnston did not have an update on Steve Downie condition in his postgame media availability.

-The officials didn't cost the Penguins this game. The Penguins cost this game for themselves. They were missing two of their better top-six forwards. They missed a ton of quality chances. Additionally they took several bad penalties. They "earned" this loss.

-That said, the officials ruined this game. They allowed it to become a WWE battle royale. It looked like mud wrestling on ice at times. Was it a hotly contested competitive game? Absolutely. And it was completely intriguing drama late. But watching Kris Letang and Jason Spezza try to fight off interference like they are drowning isn't entertaining. Justin St. Pierre, Chris Rooney, Trent Knorr and Pierre Racicot botched this game badly.

-Look at this:

-If this is how the regular season officiated, how will the postseason go?

-Forget 100 points. Forget 90 points. Will anyone even break 85 points? Here are the scoring leaders after tonight:

-It's pretty clear there's some sort of beef between Kris Letang and the officials. And make no mistake. It's a two-way street. He needs to cool down when it comes to jawing with officials but the zebras should be above this petty stuff.

-Kari Lehtonen was pretty sharp. He stole a few goals. The Penguins, minus Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Hornqvist, ran into a brick wall in net.

-That said, they had ample opportunities. Secondary scorers and role players Daniel Winnik, Brandon Sutter, Blake Comeau and others each had chances to score but couldn't bury them. With Hornqvist and Malkin each sidelined, someone needs to fill that void.

-One would assume Beau Bennett would be a candidate for that but he only logged five shifts after he deflected a puck into his own net for Dallas' first goal. He simply looks broken as a player at this point.

-Andrew Ebbett even found ways to generate a few scoring chances, albeit low quality ones. Bennett isn't even doing that.

-Christian Ehrhoff and Ben Lovejoy had easily their best game as a pairing since being teamed together. They were fairly clean with the puck and didn't give up many chances to the Stars.

-Marc-Andre Fleury deserved better. They was beaten on an own-goal by Bennett and then allowed a goal to an all-star like Jamie Benn who had a month and a half all alone on the top of the crease. Fleury was a major reason this game was tight.

-For as poorly as the officials called this game, the Penguins still got four power plays. They only managed to convert one.

-Antoine Roussel sure knows how to do his job? He's annoying as heck.

-John Klingberg looked like a 10-year veteran anytime he had the puck. He's a very confident player.

-The Penguins led the game in shots, 32-26.

-The Penguins led the game in attempted shots, 68-57.

-Letang led the game with seven shots.

-Brett Ritchie led the Stars with five shots.

-Letang led the game with 27:01 of ice time.

-Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:29 of ice time.

-Fire Ray Shero.

-The Stars controlled faceoffs, 41-29 (63 percent).

-Jason Spezza is 14 for 18 (78 percent).

-Sutter was 8 for 19 (42 percent).

-Letang led the game with four blocked shots.

-Ryan Garbutt, Jordie Benn and Roussel each led the game with three blocked shots.

-Game summary.

-Event summary.

-Highlights:


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About the Stars - 03-19-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Stars.

When and where: 8:30 p.m., EDT, American Airlines Center.

TV: Root Sports, Fox Sports Southwest, Sportsnet 360.

Record: 32-28-10, 74 points. The Stars are in last place in the Central Division.

Leading Scorer: Left winger Jamie Benn (right), 64 points (23 goals, 41 assists).

Last Game: 3-0 home loss to the Blues Sunday. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves for the Stars.

Last Game against the Penguins: 3-2 road win Oct. 16. Defenseman Alex Goligoski and center Jason Spezza each recorded two assists for the Stars.

Stars Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: Spezza. In 37 career games against the Penguins, he has 45 points.

Ex-Penguins on the Stars: Defenseman Alex Goligoski, amateur scout Jiri Hrdina.

Ex-Stars on the Penguins: Associate general manager Jason Botterill, assistant general manager Bill Guerin, special assignment scout Gilles Meloche, player development coach Mark Recchi, amateur scout Warren Young.

Useless Stars Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Benn (272 points/256 penalty minutes) is one of two players selected in the 2007 draft with over 250 points and penalty minutes in his career. The other is Penguins left winger David Perron (255 points/322 penalty minutes).

The last time the Penguins played the Stars, this happened:

This too:


Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (31-15-7, 2.23 GAA, .922 SV%) for the Penguins. Kari Lehtonen (29-14-10, 2.91 GAA, .905 SV%) for the Stars.

Injuries: For the Penguins, right winger Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed) and center Evgeni Malkin ("lower body") are out. Right winger Pascal Dupuis (blood clot) and defenseman Olli Maatta (shoulder) are on injured reserve. For the Stars, defenseman Trevor Daley (sprained knee) is out. Left winger Travis Moen ("upper body") and right winger Valeri Nichushkin (hip) are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins' held an optional morning skate. According to their Web site, their primary lines and defensive pairing at practice yesterday were:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 39 David Perron
19 Beau Bennett - 16 Brandon Sutter - 17 Blake Comeau
26 Daniel Winnik -  13 Nick Spaling - 23 Steve Downie
25 Andrew Ebbett - 40 Maxim Lapierre - 27 Craig Adams

7 Paul Martin - 58 Kris Letang
12 Ben Lovejoy - 10 Christian Ehrhoff
4 Rob Scuderi - 28 Ian Cole

-The Stars primary lines and defensive pairings at their morning skate today were:

14 Jamie Benn - 20 Cody Eakin - 91 Tyler Seguin
21 Antoine Roussel - 90 Jason Spezza - 83 Ales Hemsky
16 Ryan Garbutt - 38 Vernon Fiddler - 22 Colton Sceviour
11 Curtis McKenzie - 10 Shawn Horcoff - 24 Brett Ritchie

2 Jyrki Jokipakka - 33 Alex Goligoski
37 Patrik Nemeth - 3 John Klingberg
24 Jordie Benn - 4 Jason Demers

Notes:

-Defenseman Rob Scuderi has 98 career points.

-Center Sidney Crosby has 297 career goals.

-Jamie Benn has 197 career assists.

-The referees are Justin St. Pierre (No. 12) and Chris Rooney (No. 5). The linesmen are Pierre Racicot (No. 65) and Trent Knorr (No. 63).

-Our live blog begins at approximately 7:45 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 

 

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