In their last home game for the next two weeks, the New York Islanders got into a track meet with a Dallas Stars team that has been struggling defensively. Turns out that was an excellent idea, particularly with John Tavares in the mood for a hat trick on a five-point night.
Technically it was also another two-goal comeback, their third in the Isles' last four victories. The Stars opened a 2-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of the first period ... but only one of those goals was against Evgeni Nabokov.
In an ominous sign, Nabokov left the game with an injury making a save to his right, having played just 13 minutes. But although Kevin Poulin allowed a goal within a minute of entering the game, the Isles got past that and then some. A four-goal second period explosion saw them reach the second intermission with a 4-3 lead, and when the Stars continued the track meet in the third, the Islanders absolutely ran away with it.
Tavares' second goal gave the Isles the comfortable margin on an "aww, sick, that's what he do" play midway through third, and his wonderfully gratuitous 5-on-3 goal late in the game brought the hats to the ice at the Coliseum.
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Bullets and Such
- With seven goals, an injury, and a comeback, there was way too much to recount. But here's a few:
- Almost lost with the other theater that followed, Ryan Strome scored his first NHL goal, also on a power play, to get the Isles on the board early in the first.
- Also forgotten: Thomas Vanek had nice assists on the first two goals, but then the Isles scored five more and who remembers what happened earlier anyway?
- The Stars very nearly tied it back at 4-4 early in the third when Calvin de Haan made an excellent and legal check on the backcheck to save a likely goal. The Isles headed the other way, John Tavares faking a Star out of his cowboy boots at center ice, then feeding Brian Strait -- yes, Brian Strait -- for a goal that made it 5-3.
- After a spell on the fourth line the last few games, Peter Regin was alive tonight combining on an Island of Misfit Toys goal with Johs Bailey, and creating a few other chances on the rush and penalty kill.
- Tavares' second goal was sick: On the power play, he had the puck in the corner, and basically scared the Stars backward with the threat of a seam pass, opening up space for himself to pivot and deposit a backhand past Kari Lehtonen.
- Lehtonen was pretty good, by the way. Yes, he allowed seven goals and he was pretty good, including during five minutes of PK time (and a whole lot of 3-on-5) that ultimately yielded Tavares' hat trick late in regulation.
- Kevin Poulin relieved Nabokov and made 13 saves on 15 shots. Not tested a ton, though tested some -- but this was obviously the Isles' night, as they outshot Dallas 43-23 and feasted on power play time.
- The official tally was 3-for-6 on the power play.
- Since this game had its chippy share, and these teams will meet again next week, was funny to see stars Jamie Benn and Thomas Vanek exchange punches. Vanek threw a good, solid hit on Benn along the boards near the end of the second, and Benn responded by punching him in the sternum. Vanek through a retaliation punch to the head. Both got coincidental minors.
- With Kyle Okposo off to tend the birth of his firstborn, Brock Nelson grooved on the first line. But it was an individual effort on the counterattack where he waltzed into the slot and unleashed a high wrister to give the Isles a key 4-3 go-ahead goal, just minutes after they'd allowed the Stars to tie it at 3-3.
- Pretty cool to have a game where Nelson and Strome score, while Tavares nets a hat trick, yeah? When you look for signs of promise for this franchise, those are three fine ones.
- Oh, in case you missed it in all of the above: The Islanders scored seven goals tonight. (Mind you, they still conceded three. So...keep scoring, boys.)
With the forwards they have, the Isles can obviously produce some action like this. As always, and as with their opponents on this night, the concern is what happens on the back end.
So, more track meet and outshootitude tomorrow? Maybe. The Isles head to Toronto tonight to take on the Leafs Tuesday night, the first of a six-game road trip.
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