Penguins visit Stars hoping late-game woes are solved
The inability to close out games late has become such an issue for the Pittsburgh Penguins that star center Sidney Crosby reached the point of poking fun about it.
"We've had a lot of practice," Crosby deadpanned after the Penguins overcame their latest blown lead Thursday, when he scored the only goal in the shootout for a 2-1 win at Nashville. "I guess we've just learned to move by it quick... stay positive, move by it and finish hard."
Pittsburgh (40-24-11, 91 points) will probably be looking for a different formula when it plays at Dallas (38-30-6, 82) Saturday.
The Penguins have allowed 12 goals in the final 3:01 of regulation or in overtime since Feb. 23. The game against the Predators was the fifth time in their past 14 games they have blown a lead with four minutes or fewer remaining in regulation, and the game Thursday was their first win in those five games.
Pittsburgh also has allowed a goal late with the opposing goalie pulled seven times this season.
"It's been happening way too much lately," said winger Bryan Rust, who got the Penguins' lone regulation goal in Nashville. The win ended a three-game losing streak, including two in a row -- one in overtime, one in a shootout -- where they blew a lead late.
"I think our team has played extremely well over the past couple of weeks and probably deserve more points than we've gotten," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "But that's how hockey goes sometimes.
"I think we have great leadership in our room. This core group of players, they're an experienced group, and they know what it takes at this time of year. We've got to continue to keep our focus on the one task at hand and just stay in the moment."
The Penguins are 1-1-2 in their past four games, but they still have managed to catch the second-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division with 91 points each, although the Islanders have two more wins and a game in hand.
Dallas sits in the top Western Conference wild-card race despite going 1-2-1 so far on a homestand that ends Saturday, before the Stars head out on a four-game trip through western Canada.
Thursday, Dallas fell to Colorado 3-1, leaving the Avalanche and Arizona just four points back. But coach Jim Montgomery has liked what he has seen from the Stars lately.
"We are a more consistent and fundamentally sound team with and without the puck," he said. "That's why you're seeing us have more success on a more consistent level. Also, our players are a lot more comfortable within the game, how we're playing whether we're ahead or behind.
"We're playing a good brand of hockey, and we're going to end up on the right side of the score sheet most of the time if we keep playing this way."
Four points is also the gap between Dallas and the third-place St. Louis Blues in the Central Division.
The Stars have scored eight goals in the first four games of the homestand and rank near the bottom of the NHL with an average of 2.51 goals a game.
"It's been our problem basically the full season," defenseman Roman Polak said. "We always win the games 2-1 or something. We don't score as much as you would like to."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 22, 2019