Penguins slip by Stars in shootout thriller

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As you heard if you watched the telecast, the Pittsburgh Penguins-Dallas Stars game really had a little of everything.

Of course, it seemingly all really started with Eric Nystrom’s controversial hit on Kris Letang, which rolled out the red carpet for a violent and captivating game. It wasn’t just about barbaric checks, though, as there were plenty of beautiful goals, ingenious passes and splendid saves.

For many purists, the sticking point will be that it also had a shootout, which ultimately resulted in a 4-3 win for the Penguins. Personally, I’ve softened on that subject merely to protect my own sanity, but I’d argue that only the bitterest anti-shootout folks would dispute the entertainment value of a shootout that was, well, a shootout.

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Ultimately Michael Ryder couldn’t match Pascal Dupuis’ effort, giving Pittsburgh the victory.

Standings impact

With that win, the Penguins strengthen their position in fourth place with 79 points in 63 games played. The good news is that they’re in the driver’s seat for home ice in the first round. The bummer for Pittsburgh is that the New York Rangers have seven more points and two games in hand for the Atlantic Division title (and the first seed that comes with it right now).

The Stars failed to win their fourth game in a row – and Jamie Benn’s return to the lineup – but they shouldn’t feel ashamed by their efforts. They stood toe-to-toe with one of the NHL’s marquee teams and once again find themselves alone in eighth place in the West with 71 points. That margin isn’t large – both the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings have 70 points to the Stars’ 71 with 18 games remaining for all three teams – but Dallas earned itself a solid head start in that tight race.

The only real shame is that these teams barely ever get to see each other.