Dupuis notches winning goal, but injuries to Sullivan, Letang tarnish victory
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DALLAS -- The Penguins didn't define what type of injury Kris Letang got in their 4-3 shootout win Wednesday night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
But they no doubt will be watching closely to see if their top defenseman has a second concussion this season and whether Stars winger Eric Nystrom will receive supplemental discipline from the NHL for the hit that hurt Letang.
"The league's made a good effort to define what is a point of contact and that type of situation on a hit," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said shortly after winger Pascal Dupuis, the seventh shooter, beat Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen to win the game in the shootout.
Bylsma described Letang as "day to day." He said the same of winger Steve Sullivan, who left briefly in the second period, returned, but then sat out the third period with an unspecified injury.
Letang was playing the puck in the corner to Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's right when Nystrom came flying in and hit him at 9:55 of the first period.
It did not appear Nystrom raised his elbow, but his arm hit Letang in the chin and/or chest area and sent him sprawling to the ice. He remained there for a few minutes before skating off.
Nystrom was given a roughing minor penalty.
Letang did not speak with reporters after the game, but had a red mark on his chin.
Penguins winger Chris Kunitz, a physical player, said Nystrom's speed played a part in the injury.
"Usually, it's one of those things that it's a reaction -- he moves, you move something on your body," Kunitz said.
"It's just contact. It's when there's a sudden movement somewhere.
"That's the unfortunate part of moving so fast. ... It's something where you've got to make sure to control yourself out there because anytime you do [hit someone in the head], it's going to be looked at."
Fleury, who made 30 saves through regulation and overtime and improved to 6-0-0 lifetime against Dallas, had perhaps the best look at the play live.
"I was kind of watching the puck, so I didn't really see if the guy hit him clean in the head," Fleury said.
Letang missed 21 games earlier this season because of a concussion he got Nov. 26. He came back with a bang, notching six goals, 12 points in the 17 games before the game against the Stars and since he returned to the lineup Jan. 19.
He got hurt late in a game at Montreal when he was leveled by Max Pacioretty.
Letang had a bloodied and broken nose, but was cleared by Canadiens doctors that night and returned to score the overtime winner in a 4-3 game.
In the next couple of days, he had an onset of concussion symptoms and was diagnosed.
Pacioretty was suspended by the NHL for three games.
Sullivan has been playing well since the All-Star break a little more than a month ago and got the Penguins' first goal before he got hurt.
Shortly before he left for the first time, he fell awkwardly as he tried to break up what became a short-handed breakaway by Dallas winger Vern Fiddler. The play did not produce a goal.
The game extended the Penguins' winning streak to four games and stopped the Stars' winning streak at four.
The Penguins, with 79 points, gave themselves more of a cushion in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and moved within seven of the first-place New York Rangers. They are three ahead of fifth-place Ottawa and four ahead of sixth-place Philadelphia.
After Jamie Benn, at 15:25, and Sullivan, at 18:53, exchanged first-period goals, Dallas got what could have been a backbreaker when defenseman Sheldon Souray scored off a drop pass from Loui Eriksson with 12.2 seconds left in the second period for a 2-1 lead.
"It was a disappointing way to end the period," said Penguins forward Craig Adams. "We had the intermission to regroup and take a deep breath."
Adams and Kunitz scored on deflections 39 seconds apart early in the third period to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead, but Michael Ryder forged a 3-3 tie when he tucked his own rebound past Fleury at 7:23 of the third period.
In the shootout, James Neal and Kunitz scored for the Penguins, while Eriksson and Benn scored for Dallas.
Dupuis' goal stood up when Ryder's ensuing shot missed wide.
"It was back and forth," said Penguins center Jordan Staal, who had an assist.
"It felt a lot like playoff hockey -- very tough, lots of hitting. It was exciting hockey."
With the exception of those injuries, of course.
First Published March 1, 2012 12:38 am