When the Dallas Stars open a six-game road trip crucial to their playoff chances, they could run into a buzz saw in Pittsburgh Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins (39-26-4) had their three-game winning streak broken Saturday night at Toronto 5-2, and also came away upset over an ineffective power play and an apparent goal by defenseman Brian Dumoulin that not only was waved off but resulted in a goaltender interference penalty — with the Maple Leafs scoring on the ensuing power play for a 4-0 lead.
Goalie interference has been a hot-button topic all season.
“I disagree with the call,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan snapped after the game. “They see it a certain way out there. I do think the call should be challengeable because it’s a turning point in the game. It’s a two-goal swing. Based on everything that we saw, it looked to me like it was a good goal.”
The league’s top power play going 0-for-3 didn’t improve the Penguins’ mood.
“We didn’t give ourselves a great chance,” said team captain Sidney Crosby, who also was frustrated by the goalie interference situation.
“The tough one with that one is we get a penalty and we can’t even challenge it. But we probably didn’t deserve to win anyway.”
The loss, along with a Washington win, pushed Pittsburgh into second place in the Metropolitan Division, where two points separate the top three teams.
Dallas (38-24-6) sits in the top wild-card spot in West. The Stars had Saturday off after beating Anaheim 2-1 on Friday at home, moving to 2-1-2 this month.
Their road trip features six games in 10 days.
“This is a long and pretty critical road trip coming up away from home,” Stars center Tyler Seguin said.
Dallas has points in five straight home games (3-0-2) and is 14-14-3 on the road.
“It’s absolutely amazing playing in front of our fans. Now we get to go into other buildings — a lot of buildings with good atmospheres, so it’s going to be playoff-like,” Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. “It’ll be fun to try and be the enemy and find a way to get as many points as we can.”
Both teams are dealing with injuries.
Dallas general manager Jim Nill announced Friday that center Martin Hanzal, who has struggled with injuries all season, will have spinal fusion surgery soon and miss the remainder of the season. Nill characterized it as “major surgery,” but said Hanzal should be able to return next season.
“Everybody is on the trip, and we’ll sort it out from there,” Hitchcock said. “Ben (Bishop) is on the trip with us and we’ll see (his status) when we get back on the ice with him.”