By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — For most of the season, the Dallas Stars lost when trailing after two periods.
On Tuesday, Dallas trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team that was 26-0 when leading after two periods, 2-0 after 40 minutes. However, the Stars erupted for three unanswered goals, including the game-winner from Antoine Roussel with 9:24 remaining in a 3-2 victory Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.
“It was good,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the comeback. “I thought we played hard. A little bit of execution problem in the first two periods, but we stayed with it, got some pucks to the net, got rewarded for going there. I thought at the end of the night we played a good game.”
Roussel, who also had an assist, scored his 12th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the left circle off the rush. It initially appeared that Penguins goaltender Matt Murray, who made 29 saves, denied Roussel’s flick, but the puck went in after first striking Murray’s glove.
Brett Ritchie and Jason Spezza also scored for Dallas (25-28-10), who got two assists from John Klingberg. Antti Niemi made 18 saves.
“I thought he played a strong game for us, made a couple real big saves,” Ruff said of Niemi. “I thought we rebounded (from the first two periods), and Antti gave us the key save at the key time to allow us to win a hockey game.”
Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel scored for Pittsburgh (38-15-8).
“Well, we just got outplayed,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I don’t think we managed the puck very well. I don’t think we won enough puck battles and as a result we let them come at us (in the third period). We’ve got to find a way to make it harder for them, force them to play a 200-foot game, but we didn’t spend enough time in the offensive zone and that’s when our team’s at its best, when we hang onto pucks.”
Pittsburgh led 1-0 after 20 minutes with Malkin scoring his 26th goal of the season at 10:04 of the first period. Malkin one-timed a Patric Hornqvist pass from behind the Dallas net in for the opening score.
Guentzel put the visitors ahead 2-0 with his seventh goal of the season off a rebound with 9:20 remaining before the second intermission. Niemi stopped the initial shot from Ian Cole, but Guentzel was waiting at the near post to knock in the carom.
Dallas got on the board 3:40 into the third when Ritchie scored his 11th goal of the season off a rebound. Murray denied a Klingberg wrister from the left circle with a pad save, but the carom fell to Ritchie and he scored from the high slot.
“We weren’t down in the room in the second intermission at all. We believed that if we got just one goal, it would put them on their heels and then it’s a one-shot game to get into overtime,” Ritchie said.
The Stars tied it at 9:41 in the third when Spezza scored his ninth goal of the season from the left circle. Spezza’s wrister was initially stopped by Murray, but the puck fluttered through the air, deflecting off Brian Dumoulin’s shoulder before crossing the goal line. After a short official review, the goal stood.
“The one goes off my shoulder and the puck’s up in the air, you just couldn’t find it,” Murray said. “It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just a terrible bounce, it’s just terrible luck. He (Dumoulin) is in the right position. He’s boxing the guy out and it just happens to hit his shoulder and go in. We kind of brush those ones off. I think we realize that’s just a really bad bounce.”
Murray left the ice with 1:44 remaining, but the Penguins were unable to find the equalizer.