Down 2-0 on the road? No problem, not for this team, not for this month anyway. The New York Islanders have claimed another victim -- this one a repeat from just six days prior -- with another comeback victory and 4-2 dagger to a struggling Dallas Stars club.
The decent efforts that saw little reward for, oh, all of November, are suddenly and somehow turning up golden with regularity in 2014. Sunday night in Dallas was the latest and salvation-ist of them all.
When Dan Ellis robbed Thomas Vanek in the low slot on a turnover feed from Kyle Okposo midway through the third period, you had to be sure it wasn't the Islanders night and the road win streak was over. Wrong. Okposo and the top line kept buzzing, the Isles kept pushing, and the tough luck and poor execution of the first half has become the opposite for at least one more game.
Three goals in the final five minutes of regulation did the trick, with Okposo's second goal tying the game and setting the stage for more joy.
Lunging to end their five-game losing streak and hungry to pay the Islanders back for Monday night, the Stars came out flying and outshot the Isles 16-9 in the first period. The barrage paid off at random, Ray Whitney scoring on a great snap finish after a dump-in led to a feed from behind the net. Sergei Gonchar doubled the lead to 2-0 when he anticipated Frans Nielsen's pass to Brock Nelson and stripped Nelson at the left point, sizing up Kevin Poulin before beating him blocker side from the high slot.
In between those goals, Cal Clutterbuck had a shorthanded breakaway with some backside pressure, but Dan Ellis was equal to his shot from the mid slot area.
Down 2-0, the Isles responded as needed in the second period, allowing the Stars only one chance in the first 10 minutes -- that being the notable exception of Erik Cole hitting the crossbar on a breakaway -- while all four lines generated some offensive time. They were having trouble getting shots from in close on Ellis until a counterattack begun by John Tavares went through Thomas Vanek to Kyle Okposo, who beat Ellis on the near post, glove side.
The Isles' push thankfully and necessarily continued into the third, though the fruits of their labor didn't come until very late, after you might've given up hope and the Stars might've understandably assumed their losing streak was finally over.
A lone third-period power play featured good puck movement and determined skating and zone time, but still no dice with just five minutes remaining. After getting beaten twice early on, Kevin Poulin had done his part to hold the door and make 31 saves, but it looked like it might be too late.
Instead, the surging non-Olympian Kyle Okposo did what he's done lately -- fire another seeing-eye shot through a smart screen (and possible deflection off a defender) from distance. This one from the right wing boards clanged off the top left corner and behind Ellis with just over four minutes remaining.
A few minutes later, Calvin de Haan -- who smooth skating and silky calm hands many are falling in love with -- worked a three-zone give-and-go with Vanek, avoided a check on a zone entry, and delayed just enough toward the corner to find a streaking John Tavares all alone. (de Haan also had the assist on Okposo's tying goal, though obviously not quite as key to that one.) Tavares made no mistake, banging the game-winner high with 1:24 to go. An impressive number of Islanders fans sitting in the lower bowl rose to their feet. The Isles had done it again.
With the Stars completely reeling in a way we find all too familiar, Brock Nelson iced it with an empty netter after Josh Bailey forced a turnover in the neutral zone. Final: 4-2 Islanders. Yep.
Through the Razor's Lens, etc.
- Revered Stars color man Daryl Reaugh: "The Isles are not a weighty team, but they have thrown the body around tonight, to [good] effect."
- Also Reaugh, with about eight minutes left in regulation: "The Stars are going into a kind of prevent defense here..."
- And one more, because "they're JUST like us!": "The Stars have made a habit of this, giving up goals with two, four minutes left in the period." When you're losing, it sure feels that way.
- And now Isles color man Butch Goring, after the Isles conceded the first goal to fall behind 1-0: "Well, no panic for these guys, they're getting used to this, falling behind first on the road but it hasn't bothered them lately."
Oh, anyway, this is fun.
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