Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz have teamed with Patric Hornqvist for a formidable first line that has fueled the Pittsburgh Penguins’ impressive start.
They’ll look to help Mike Johnston become the second coach in team history to win his first three games Thursday night when they host the Dallas Stars.
Pittsburgh has outshot its first two opponents 80-54 after finishing 16th with 29.9 per game last season, its fewest since 2008-09. Crosby has six points for his best-ever two-game start after he was held without a point in three straight losses to the Rangers to end the Eastern Conference semifinals in May.
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"(We) had a long summer, had a lot of time to think about last year," said Crosby, who has six goals and four assists in six meetings with Dallas. "We’re all pretty excited to get started. I think everybody’s excited to get started, but it’s nice to see it translate into a couple wins."
Herb Brooks is the only coach to start his Penguins tenure 3-0-0, doing so in 1999-2000.
Crosby’s goal and two assists in Saturday’s 5-2 win at Toronto came on power plays with Pittsburgh capitalizing on three of five chances. Kunitz and Hornqvist also scored with Hornqvist’s goal marking his second in as many games since being acquired from Nashville in June.
The line is responsible for six of the team’s 11 goals.
"(Hornqvist) competes hard, goes to the net hard," Crosby said. "He’s got a great shot so I think between the three of us we try to dig loose pucks out, go to the net and generate chances."
Dallas (1-1-1) won 4-2 at Columbus on Tuesday, surpassing the three goals it had totaled in consecutive losses. Tyler Seguin scored his first three goals and Jamie Benn scored and assisted on each leg of Seguin’s hat trick.
"That was an awesome display," coach Lindy Ruff said following his first win with Dallas. "I thought both guys played well. Seggy had a heck of a game and Benny the same thing."
The pair had failed to register a point despite 11 shots between them before Tuesday. They were the team’s top scorers in 2013-14 with Seguin totaling 84 points and Benn finishing at 79.
"(Benn) kind of asked me after the last game (a 4-1 loss at Nashville on Saturday) if we were panicking. We definitely weren’t but we thought we needed to do better," said Seguin, who has scored in four of his last five against Pittsburgh. "We had a better compete level from the drop of the puck."
The Stars have one goal on eight power-play opportunities but could break out against a Pittsburgh squad that has surrendered five goals on 11 chances.
Kari Lehtonen has been strong with 57 saves on 61 shots in two starts, though he’s 2-3-1 with a 3.15 goals-against average in his last six starts against the Penguins.
Kunitz has four goals and four assists in his last eight matchups with Dallas.
Pittsburgh has won eight of the last 10 meetings, including 5-1 at home March 18 after a 3-0 loss in Dallas on Jan. 25.