When the Dallas Stars lost their last time out, it was the first time since their front-office shakeup earlier this month that they failed to earn at least one point.
They hope to start a new run Friday when they visit the last-place Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since 2004.
Dallas (13-8-4), in the midst of a six-game road trip, fell to New Jersey 4-2 Wednesday, ending a six-game winning streak and an eight-game stretch of earning at least one point (6-0-2). The Stars had been 6-0-1 since firing general manager Doug Armstrong and replacing him with interim co-GMs Brett Hull and Les Jackson.
The Pacific Division-leading Stars received another blow after learning that Jere Lehtinen, the team’s leading goal-scorer last season, will miss two months with a sports hernia that requires surgery. Dallas had previously hoped the injury was a minor abdominal strain.
The Stars led 2-0 after the first period against New Jersey, but were plagued by their inability to score on the power play, something that’s buoyed them throughout their recent run. They couldn’t convert a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage in the second period, and are now 0-for-8 on the power play in the last two games after a 10-for-21 run over the first six games of their point streak.
“We’ve been finding ways to win,” Stars center Stu Barnes said. “We have won games where it wasn’t the perfect formula but we found ways to win. Good teams do that. If we want to be a good team, we have to find that little extra bounce here or there or blocked shot here or there.”
Dallas hadn’t allowed more than two goals in any of the six straight wins, as Marty Turco and Mike Smith combined to stop 137 of 143 shots. Turco allowed three goals on 25 shots against New Jersey before the Devils sealed it with an empty-netter.
Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been up and down all season, but was at his best in the Penguins’ last game, a 5-0 win over Atlanta last Saturday.
In Fleury’s previous game, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft had been pulled after allowing two goals on four shots in just 10:55 at Ottawa, with backup Dany Sabourin earning a 6-5 shootout win in relief with 29 saves.
Even after Fleury’s 28-save performance against Atlanta, his numbers (6-8-1, 3.24 goals-against average, .898 save percentage) aren’t as good this season as Sabourin’s (4-3-1, 2.30, .911).
“We wanted to give him the opportunity to bounce back,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said of Fleury. “Dany was outstanding the other night, but you have to give an athlete the chance to bounce back and he certainly did.”
With the consecutive victories, Pittsburgh (10-11-2) carries only its second winning streak of the season into this game, and the first since the Penguins won three in a row more than a month ago. They have two of the league’s top 15 point-scorers in 20-year-old Sidney Crosby and 21-year-old Evgeni Malkin, but have struggled to find consistency and offensive depth.
They’ve scored two or fewer goals 12 times this season, and only four forwards have 10 or more points.
The Stars and Penguins have played just once since 2004, a 4-3 shootout win for the Penguins last season in Dallas. This is their only meeting this season.
Dallas coach Dave Tippett played one season in Pittsburgh, scoring 25 points in 74 games in 1992-93. Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov also played a season for the Penguins, scoring 66 points in 1995-96 before starting his long tenure in Dallas the following season.