- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

DALLAS (AP) - Antoine Roussel helped the Dallas Stars complete an unlikely comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Roussel capped Dallas‘ three-goal third period and the Stars rallied for a 3-2 win over the Penguins on Tuesday night.

The Penguins had been 26-0 when leading after two periods, and before Tuesday the Stars were 1-21-2 when trailing after two.

“It’s disappointing because of how we had come into the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Every point is critically important.”

The loss dropped second-place Pittsburgh seven points behind Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division leader Washington.

Dallas entered the game nine points behind the second wild card in the West and in a selling mode that had sent three veteran players to contenders in trades, including defenseman Johnny Oduya shortly before the game.

“It’s really hard,” Roussel said. “You create relationships in this game. It’s tough to see those guys leave. I’m glad the guys bounced back and stayed focused tonight.”

Pittsburgh led 2-0 on goals by Evgeni Malkin in the first period and Jake Guentzel in the second.

Brett Ritchie scored the Stars‘ first goal at 3:40 of the third. Jason Spezza tied the game at 9:41 with a shot that was deflected high and off Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin into the net.

“We believed that if we got just one goal, it would put them on their heels and then it’s a one-shot game to get into overtime,” Ritchie said. “So we just took that approach, just take it shift by shift, and we were lucky enough to get a few bounces there.”

Just 55 seconds after Spezza’s goal, Roussel put a wrist shot past goalie Matt Murray from the left faceoff circle.

Murray had 29 saves.

“The one goes off my shoulder and the puck’s up in the air, you just couldn’t find it,” Murray said of Spezza’s goal.

“It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just a terrible bounce, it’s just terrible luck. (Dumoulin) is in the right position. He’s boxing (Dallas‘ Jamie Benn) out and it just happens to hit his shoulder and go in. I think we realize that’s just a really bad bounce.”

Stars goalie Antti Niemi made 18 saves.

Roussel had a goal and an assist. John Klingberg had two assists for the Stars, who are 3-1 in their past four games.

The Stars were without defensemen Oduya (traded to Chicago) and Jordie Benn (to Montreal on Monday). They also sent forward Patrick Eaves to Anaheim. Defenseman Greg Pateryn, acquired for Benn, arrived in Dallas on Tuesday, but was inactive for the game.

Without the veteran defenders, rookie Esa Lindell stepped up. He had game highs of five blocked shots and 25:18 on the ice, including the Penguins‘ only power play.

“He’s probably our best defender down low,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, “with good stick, his habits are really good and his awareness of where the opposition is at. It’s very seldom he gets caught.”

The Stars had a good chance barely two minutes into the game, when Murray stopped Ritchie’s snap shot on a 3-on-1 break. Pittsburgh’s best early chance came seven minutes in, when Niemi stopped Phil Kessel 1-on-1.

At 10:04, the Penguins‘ third shot went into the net. Patric Hornqvist sent a backhand pass from behind the goal line to Malkin at the left of the net, and he beat Niemi with a wrist shot.

The Penguins increased their lead to 2-0 at 10:40 of the second. Ian Cole’s shot from the top of the slot hit Niemi. The rebound got behind him, and Guentzel swept the puck into the net.

Ritchie’s goal followed a shot by Klingberg that went off Murray’s glove. Ritchie skated down the slot and put in the rebound. His 11th goal this season was the 17th of his career in his 100th NHL game.

NOTES: Penguins D Kris Letang (upper-body injury) missed his 20th of 61 games played this season. He did not make the current trip. … Niemi was making his first start since Feb. 14 at Winnipeg. … Dallas‘ Lauri Korpikoski played in his 600th game.

UP NEXT

Penguins: Complete a brief two-game road trip at Chicago on Wednesday.

Stars: Finish five-game homestand on Thursday against the Islanders.

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