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Defenseman Letang knocked out early in Penguins' road victory over Stars

| Thursday, March 1, 2012

DALLAS — The two points weren't really that important.

Kris Letang's health is.

The Penguins' star defenseman left Wednesday's 4-3 win — Pascal Dupuis won it in a shootout — in Dallas with a head injury. Already having sustained a concussion earlier this season, Letang was drilled in the head by Dallas left wing Eric Nystrom at the 9:55 mark of the first period.

Letang remained on the ice for around a minute, clearly in discomfort while being attended to by trainer Chris Stewart. He finally left the ice — looking shaky as he skated toward the runway — and didn't return.

"Kris Letang is day-to-day at this point," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.

Letang stood outside the locker room following the game, sending text messages while dressed in a suit. His teammates did not passionately rip Nystrom, whose right arm caught Letang flush in the head. Instead, many of the Penguins said they wanted to see a better angle of the hit before making a decision whether or not it was dirty.

"It was potentially borderline," right wing Craig Adams said.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was close to the hit but didn't have an angle that allowed him to see the collision.

"I was looking at the puck," Fleury said. "I just hope he's OK. When it's one of your guys who gets hurt, you always want to see the other guy get in trouble right away. I'm not sure how bad it was."

One thing that can't be argued is that Nystrom made clear contact with Letang's head.

Nystrom did not extend his elbow into Letang's head but received a two-minute penalty for roughing. He argued from the penalty box that no infraction should have been levied.

"The league has made a good effort to define what the principal point of contact is," Bylsma said. "I think they've good a good job of differentiating between (direct hits to the head and otherwise)."

Center Jordan Staal isn't sure if the NHL should penalize players every time a player is hit directly in the head, but he believes head injuries are becoming a serious problem.

"I'm not sure where that's headed," Staal said. "It's something (hits to the head) that we're trying to get rid of."

Letang has already sustained one concussion this season and missed nearly two months because of a hit from Montreal's Max Pacioretty. Letang was permitted by Montreal team physician David Mulder to return to that contest, but the Penguins announced early in the second period that Letang would not come back.

The Penguins hated seeing one of their most important players receiving such a nasty shot to the head.

"You've got to control yourself out there," said left wing Chris Kunitz, who scored a goal and added another in the shootout.

Kunitz and the Penguins hope Letang is OK.

"Tanger isn't a guy who lies on the ice for no reason," Kunitz said. "He's a competitive guy."

And the Penguins are a competitive team.

Without Letang and Steve Sullivan, who left with a minor lower-body injury, the Penguins overcame two deficits and a penalty in overtime, winning in a shootout.

"Best four-on-three penalty kill I've seen," Bylsma said of the effort from the Penguins in overtime.

Kunitz, Sullivan and Craig Adams had goals for the Penguins. James Neal, Kunitz and Dupuis scored in the shootout.

Scoring summary

First period

Stars, 1-0 (15:25): LW Steve Ott sent a pass to RW Jamie Benn, who was positioned in the slot. The pass just eluded the sticks of C Jordan Staal and D Paul Martin. Benn fired a shot that glanced off G Marc-Andre Fleury before trickling into the net.

Penguins, 1-1 (18:53): RW Pascal Dupuis fired a long, perfect pass off the boards to LW Steve Sullivan, who accelerated past the Dallas defense before beating G Kari Lehtonen with a high backhand shot.

Second period

Stars, 2-1 (19:47): Staal and LW Matt Cooke collided in Dallas territory, giving the Stars a four-on-three break late in the period. LW Loui Eriksson delivered a drop pass to the trailer, D Sheldon Souray, who beat Fleury with a wrist shot to the stick side.

Third period

Penguins, 2-2 (3:33): Staal fought off a check and fired a puck on net that was deflected in by RW Craig Adams.

Penguins, 3-2 (4:12): C Evgeni Malkin found Martin at the right point, and his shot was deflected in by LW Chris Kunitz.

Stars, 3-3 (7:23): Eriksson lifted a pass over diving D Deryk Engelland to RW Michael Ryder, who beat Fleury with a high shot.

Additional Information:

Letang hit legit?

Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick had a bit of a dispute last night on NBC Sports Network about the hit on Kris Letang.

Click here to see the video.

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