After a five-day layoff, Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby was fresh as a daisy. Dallas, meanwhile, had already played three games this week. It proved to be a bad combination.
Crosby scored a goal just 24 seconds in en route to his fourth two-goal game of the season, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves to lift the Penguins to a 4-1 win over the Stars on Friday night at Mellon Arena.
Tyler Kennedy and Evgeni Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh, which won its third straight. The Penguins shut-out Atlanta 5-0 last Saturday, the last time they played a game.
Mike Ribeiro scored for the Stars, who have lost their last two after starting their elongated six-game road trip with consecutive wins over the New York Rangers and New York Islanders. It was only the second loss in the last eight games for the Stars.
Goalie Mike Smith finished with 24 saves, and had his personal four-game winning streak snapped.
But the game certainly belonged to Crosby, who entered the contest tied for fourth in the league with 33 points. Facing The Kid in a normal situation is tough enough, but when the 20-year-old has almost a week to rest, he becomes nearly impossible to stop.
Crosby finished with a game-high eight shots, was a plus-2, and even picked up a minor penalty for hooking in the second period. Crosby also made a slick spin-o-rama move before his backhand attempt was turned aside by Smith while the Penguins were shorthanded in the final stanza.
"Their best player was pretty good tonight," coach Dave Tippett said. "We made some key mistakes early on and we ended up chasing the game all night. When you are chasing, you expend more energy, and we just couldn't get out of the hole we dug ourselves. We got behind the 8-ball."
The Stars, though, weren't giving out any excuses despite not getting any help for the league's schedule maker.
"Everyone has rough stretches in their schedule and it's our job to battle through whatever obstacles are in front of us," Stu Barnes said. "We need to keep working and creating chances and limiting theirs."
The Penguins jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Crosby's 13th of the season. Corralling the puck along the boards in the right corner, Crosby began to skate below the goal line and appeared to have his sights set on going around the net. But at the last second he broke to the front of the net and jammed the puck past Smith in mini wrap-around fashion.
"Crosby is a great player and all, but to win in this league you have to make that save," Smith said. "We had to chase the game and we just couldn't come back."
The Penguins made it 2-0 just over three minutes later on their fourth shot to open the game when Kennedy put home his third of the season. Kennedy picked up Jeff Halpern's turnover near the left corner and skated into the left circle before unloading a wrist shot that beat Smith.
The Stars were able to cut the deficit in half after Ribeiro notched his 10th of the season just 5:31 into the second period. After crossing the Pittsburgh blueline with the puck, Ribeiro put on the brakes a few feet from the top of the right faceoff circle, before letting a blistering slap shot go that eluded a stunned Fleury.
Pittsburgh bounced back when Crosby picked up his second of the game just over three minutes later to push the Penguins lead to 3-1. Former Stars defenseman Darryl Sydor whirled around with the puck in the right circle and sent a shot towards the net that Smith was able to block. Crosby, though, was lurking in the same circle and pounced on the rebound, chipping the puck over Smith and into the top of the net.
It was Crosby's second straight game with a goal, and the scintillating Penguins captain now has at least one point in all but two of Pittsburgh's 24 games.
Malkin capped the scoring with his 10th of the year with 5:32 left in regulation, redirecting Petr Sykora's cross-ice pass off the rush.
"You have to make plays and capitalize, and we weren't able to do that," Tippett said.
The Stars continue their road excursion when they play at Philadelphia on Saturday night at 6 p.m. (my27). Mike Modano registered his 500th NHL goal the last time these two teams hooked up in March at American Airlines Center.
The Flyers are currently tied with the New York Rangers for first place in the Atlantic Division. Philadelphia, which signed prized free agent Daniel Briere over the offseason, defeated Carolina 3-1 on Wednesday, as former Stars captain Derian Hatcher scored the game's first goal after missing the previous 13 games following right knee surgery.
The Flyers have gone 3-1-1 in their last five, scoring 19 times in the process.
"It's not going to be any easier with Philly flying and scoring goals," Mike Modano said. "We need to refocus and put ourselves in position to succeed."
The Flyers began the season on a 6-1 tear, but have come back to earth since, going 8-7-2.
-- Antti Miettinen missed his fourth straight game because of a groin injury.
-- It was Dallas' first visit to Pittsburgh since 2004.
-- Tippett played for Pittsburgh for one season in 1992-93. He picked up 25 points in 74 games.
-- Zubov also played one season in Pittsburgh (1995-96) and had 66 points. He came to Dallas a year later.
-- Ribeiro has 16 points in 13 career games against the Penguins.
-- Krys Barch got into his fifth scrap of the season in the first period when he took on Pittsburgh heavyweight Georges Laraque. Laraque, a southpaw, landed four quick lefts to the side of Barch's head before the two fell to the ice.
-- Dallas was 0-for-3 on the power play, and is now 0-for-11 in the last three games with the man advantage after a 10-for-21 run.
-- Steve Ott and Nicklas Grossman were the only Dallas players to pick up a minor penalty. Both infractions were handed out during the final four minutes of the game.
-- It was the first time in five games that the Stars had lost after giving up the first goal.
-- The game was delayed for about five minutes in the first period when a pane of glass became dislodged.