The Dallas Stars find themselves in something of an unusual spot Tuesday when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins. They will be looking to bounce back not from a loss, but from a win.
Dallas, which has no regulation losses through four games, topped the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4 in overtime Saturday. However, the Stars seem to be in a hurry to move on from some disturbing bumps in their game that they don’t want to see turn into trends.
Against the Flyers, Dallas blew leads of 2-0 and, with less than 10 minutes left in regulation, 4-2, before forward Joe Pavelski won it in overtime.
A huge part of Philadelphia’s comebacks — and the Stars’ frustration — were the Flyers’ three short-handed goals as Dallas was 0-for-3 on the power play.
“Unacceptable,” Pavelski said. “We were not happy with it at all.”
Dallas coach Pete DeBoer called his club’s puck management “horrendous.”
Stars captain Jamie Benn said the takeaways were glaring.
“Obviously, the points are why we’re here, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. Need to clean up a lot of areas,” Benn said.
At least winning ugly came with some perks. Besides two points, the Stars continued to be productive in overtime. They have gone past regulation in three of their four games, going 2-1. In 2022-23, they were 8-14 in overtime.
“We have some different personnel, and we’ve tried to use them a little bit differently,” DeBoer said. “This group realizes what (overtime losses) cost us last year, the number of points it cost us, so they came back as an attentive audience.”
Dallas also blunted the Flyers’ only power play, leaving the Stars 14 of 14 on the penalty kill.
That could come into play Tuesday. Pittsburgh, despite a lot of firepower, has struggled on the power play, scoring two goals in 13 opportunities (15.4 percent).
That’s not the Penguins’ only concern after opening the season with just four points in five games.
Like Dallas, Pittsburgh was highly critical of its game Saturday. Unlike Dallas, it was a loss, 4-2 at St. Louis.
It was the Penguins’ second straight loss and featured a lot of odd-man breaks against, an 0-for-2 performance on the power play and a general lack of urgency.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan was uncharacteristically harsh in his assessment, especially this early in the season.
“We didn’t play hard enough, and we didn’t play smart enough,” Sullivan fumed. “We got what we deserved.”
The Penguins have a losing record playing against five teams that, like them, missed the playoffs last season. The organization kept its core players but made sweeping offseason changes, including at general manager.
Kyle Dubas brought in superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson and revamped the Penguins’ bottom six forwards. The early results surely are not what was expected.
Dallas will be Pittsburgh’s first opponent that made the playoffs — and not by a little, as the Stars topped 100 points and finished a point out of first in the Central Division.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, one of the long-time core players, was asked which areas needed improvement to climb out of the uneven start. He pulled no punches.
“A lot,” Crosby said. “Every aspect, I would say.”