Penguins settle for point in OT loss
DALLAS – Penguins center Mario Lemieux has emphasized that his club needs to start getting two points when it plays on the road.
On this night, however, one point seemed acceptable – even if it was earned in a 6-5, overtime loss.
Dallas Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor got credit for the winning goal 42 seconds into overtime with the Stars on a 4-on-3 power play.
Penguins goaltender Garth Snow inadvertently knocked a loose puck into the net after Sydor’s centering pass from the right-wing boards bounced off some skates in front.
‘I didn’t really know where I was supposed to be out there,’ Sydor said. ‘I just threw it at the net.’
The Stars got the power play 14 seconds into overtime when referee Brad Meier whistled Alexei Kovalev for hauling down Stars center Mike Modano.
The Penguins – who squandered an early two-goal lead – fought back three times from one-goal deficits in the third period.
‘It’s kind of a mixed bag,’ winger Kevin Stevens said. ‘You’d like to win the game, but a point’s a point.’
The Penguins still haven’t found a way to win overtime games. The NHL went to a 4-on-4 format last season, and the Penguins are 3-8-14 in overtime since then, including 0-2-6 this season.
They came into the game determined to avenge an 8-2 home loss to the Stars on Dec. 23.
‘We talked about it,’ said Stevens, who was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers at the time. ‘Obviously, we’re a little bit of a different team now. You want to play against the best teams. You want to beat the best teams. We feel we’re one of the best teams. It was a good battle.’
And very nearly a devastating one for Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis, who left the ice with 1:02 left in regulation after being cut just above the right eye on a pass by Stars winger Grant Marshall.
Kasparaitis left the ice bleeding profusely. He took 10 internal stitches and 15 on the surface but was OK afterward.
‘I got scared, but then I realized I got hit above the eye,’ he said. ‘I realized I got lucky.’
Kasparaitis didn’t rule out donning a visor.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘We’ll see.’
It wasn’t long after the game that Kasparaitis – noted for his large noggin – had his trademark smile back.
‘He’s OK,’ teammate Jaromir Jagr said. ‘His head just got bigger.’
Jagr tied the score 3-3 just 26 seconds into the third when he took a pass from Stevens, cut in front and beat goalie Ed Belfour for his team-best 27th goal of the season. Jagr leads the NHL with 18 third-period goals.
The Stars regained the lead at 4:28 when Brett Hull rifled a shot from the top of the right circle past Snow for his 26th goal. Modano won a faceoff to Hull, who has one of the quickest releases in NHL history.
The Penguins fought back again. Robert Lang tied it at 7:52, but Sergei Zubov put the Stars ahead at 14:23. Kovalev returned the favor, completing a nifty, three-way play between himself, Lang and Martin Straka for his 26th goal of the season and his fifth goal in the past three games.
All this action thrilled the sellout crowd.
‘It was fabulous,’ Hull said. ‘I would pay top dollar to watch that every night.’
The Penguins dropped to 1-3-0-1 on the road since Lemieux came out of retirement Dec. 27. They were 9-4-5 before that. Those numbers could be reflective of the fact that Lemieux’s presence makes every game a huge game for the home team.
Games are starting to become pretty big for the Penguins, too. They went into last night’s contest just three points ahead of the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot.
‘It’s important to win on the road, especially against good teams like Dallas,’ Lemieux said a few hours before Fridays’ game. ‘If we want to get anywhere this year, we have to start winning these games.’
It looked as if the Penguins were on their way to doing just that when winger Josef Beranek opened the scoring at 2:14, knocking Rene Corbet’s goal-mouth pass past Belfour.
That was Beranek’s sixth goal of the season and just the second goal in 21 games for the Penguins’ third line, which played an outstanding game.
Lemieux made it 2-0 at 2:14 when he redirected Jagr’s centering pass past Belfour. It was Lemieux’s 10th goal in 11 games since coming out of retirement and it ran his point total to 22. He had been held without a goal the previous two games.
Later in the period, Lemieux delivered a crushing check on Modano behind the Penguins net. The Stars struck back with two goals in 34 seconds – Grant Marshall and Ted Donato – early in the second period to tie it 2-2.
‘That’s a good team out there,’ Lemieux said. ‘They have a lot of experience. Obviously, they didn’t panic when they were down 2-0. They played a solid game. A couple of breakdowns really cost us.’
At least two members of the Penguins’ first line of Lemieux, Jagr and Stevens were on the ice for four Dallas goals.
Benoit Hogue gave the Stars a 3-2 lead at 13:19 of the second period after Donato picked off Lemieux’s errant drop pass in the near the Stars blue line and lugged the puck all the way up ice.
‘Every time we had a breakdown, they had a couple of guys in good position,’ Lemieux said. ‘It’s one of those things. You make the wrong decision, you go to the wrong guy, the puck’s in our net.’