The Pittsburgh Penguins’ explosive offense continues to cruise along and put up big numbers. Their league-leading penalty kill has been just as impressive, particularly of late.
They’ll try to put the clamps down on a hot power-play unit Saturday night when they visit the Dallas Stars.
Pittsburgh (36-13-2), which averages 3.22 goals per game, scored at least four for the 10th time in 15 contests with Thursday’s 6-4 road victory over the New York Islanders.
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The Penguins lead the NHL with an 88.4 penalty kill percentage, but have been even better recently, surrendering just three goals on 37 chances over their last 12 contests. They thwarted a 5-on-3 Islanders power play for 50 seconds late in the third period, helping them hold on for a seventh victory in nine games despite being outshot 18-11 over the final 20 minutes.
"Lately we’ve done a good job killing penalties," Brandon Sutter, who scored his ninth goal of the season to end a 13-game drought, told the team’s website. "Getting that in the last few minutes was a confidence booster."
Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 less than 10 minutes in, but got a goal and two assists from both Sidney Crosby and Canadian Olympic teammate Chris Kunitz to improve to 10-11-1 when they fail to score first.
"We found a way to stay strong and make key plays at the right times," said Crosby, whose 72 points lead the league.
Crosby has eight multi-point games over his last 16 and four goals and three assists in four career matchups with Dallas, but hasn’t faced the Stars since 2010. Kunitz, who is one goal shy of tying his season high of 26 set in 2011-12, has three goals and three assists over his last six meetings.
A surging power play has helped the Stars (23-20-8) regroup and win the first two of a five-game homestand after dropping nine of their previous 10. Dallas tallied two goals with the man advantage in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Minnesota. Shawn Horcoff found the back of the net on a power play for one of the team’s four second-period goals in a 7-1 victory over Toronto on Thursday.
The Stars have at least one power play goal in each of their last six games, going 7 for 21 with the extra skater. Before this run, their 12.4 power-play percentage ranked as the second-worst in the league. Dallas hasn’t scored on the advantage in seven straight contests since Dec. 11-23, 2010.
"(Special teams have) been real important," coach Lindy Ruff said. "The power play has been really good, and we had a big kill when they could have gotten back in the game."
Rookie Valeri Nichushkin tallied two goals and an assist Thursday while Jamie Benn scored the 100th of his career and was credited with three assists to end the Maple Leafs’ six-game winning streak. Minnesota had won seven of nine before falling to Dallas.
"Something we wanted to do in this game was build off last game," said Benn, the first Dallas player to score 100 goals before his 25th birthday. "It’s two pretty good games in a row, pretty good in all three zones and we eliminated our turnovers."
Third-leading scorer Cody Eakin left in the third period with an upper-body injury after a hit from Colton Orr, though Ruff didn’t sound too concerned.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has a 1.95 goals-against average in winning all six career starts versus Dallas.
Pittsburgh, which is 10-2-1 against Western Conference clubs, is 7-1-0 against the Stars since 2003-04.