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Stars 3, Islanders 2: Dallas takes home the points

Dallas helped their playoff chances and hurt the Islanders’.

New York Islanders v Dallas Stars
Varlamov did all he could to help the Isles win.
Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Both the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars came into tonight’s game desperate for standings points. But the Stars got the better of the Islanders most of the night and took home a deserved regulation win.

The Islanders kept themselves in it—well, Semyon Varlamov did, at least—and had some chances to tie the game late. Unfortunately, they did not put enough pucks on net throughout most of the game, and the Stars, in hockey cliché terms, earned their bounces, such as a couple of deflections and a shorthanded goal.

This regulation loss drops the Isles’ tragic number to fifteen: Fifteen points lost by the Islanders or gained by the Capitals will eliminate them.

Lineup Notes

The Islanders made no changes to their group of skaters after a fourth straight win, but Ilya Sorokin was able to dress again. He did not start in net, however. Semyon Varlamov returned to the crease after a Sunday afternoon off, opposed by the Stars’ Jake Oettinger.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Shooting Stars

Early in the game and on his first shift, J-G Pageau cut around Miro Heiskanen and managed to put the puck back on his forehand in tight, but Oettinger got in front of it. However, before the game was five minutes old, the Stars trapped the Isles in their own zone for a minute-long shift. During that zone time, Joel Kiviranta saw the puck at his feet by the crease with Varlamov’s momentum carrying him the other way, but Noah Dobson tied him up long enough for Varlamov to get in position.

Dallas continued to push, though, and they scored the game’s first goal. Heiskanen took a pass and fired off Varlamov’s blocker, but Marian Studenic put it in the net on the rebound. Barry Trotz challenged for goaltender interference, and Jamie Benn clearly made contact with and knocked over Varlamov as he cut across the crease battling Grant Hutton, but the referees quickly dismissed the challenge, calling it “incidental contact outside the blue.”

Well, alright. Varlamov was still partially in his paint, but Benn caught his glove side outside the crease—quite the test case. On a more positive note, the Islanders easily killed off the bench minor they were assessed for the failed challenge.

The Islanders looked a little flat-footed for most of the next few minutes, but characteristic of them this time of year, they patiently waited for a chance on the counterattack and converted to tie the game. Dobson, from his backboards, stretched a sweet pass to Pageau in stride, who sprung away on an odd-man rush with Josh Bailey. Pageau looked him off and teed up a shot to the high far corner over Oettinger’s blocker.

Late in the period, Stars’ fourth-line center Radek Faksa inadvertently caught some friendly fire and left the game for the period. Joel Hanley fired a slapshot from the point which rammed right into Faksa’s bent and thus lightly padded knee. Faksa, understandably, needed assistance to get to the bench, though he returned to haunt them later. But Hanley’s shot didn’t cause his team only harm in the first.

It looked like the Islanders were going to sneak out of the period tied, but in the final minute, Tyler Seguin was credited with a goal that the Stars back on top. Hanley, perhaps hesitant to blast the puck after what just happened with Faksa, this time floated a puck toward the net. Seguin got inside position on Dobson, and Hanley’s shot went off his leg and in the back of the net. Dallas led 2-1 into the intermission.

Second Period: A Bang and a (Long) Whimper

It didn’t take long for the Islanders to re-tie the game. Good defensive play against a Dallas rush led to Dobson intercepting a pass and leading a three-on-one the other way. Dobson dished off to Brock Nelson, and Nelson cruised in toward Oettinger before ripping it through him just thirty-one seconds in the period.

The Stars, however, continued to control the game, running around in the offensive zone and trapping the Islanders—Grant Hutton got stuck out there for nearly two minutes early in the second. But the chances did not appear, to my eye, as dangerous as they did in the first. And Ross Johnston, after jawing with and needing to be separated from Kiviranta on the faceoff, trucked Jani Hakanpää (himself a very big fella), who had gone to retrieve a dump-in from Casey Cizikas.

Studenic whacked the puck over the glass midway through the period and sent the Islanders to their first power play, but before they could even get set up, the Stars took the lead yet again. Faksa tipped Luke Glendening’s shot from the half-wall and it trickled under Varlamov’s pads to make it 3-2; Pageau just missed smacking it out of the way.

The Islanders still had more than a minute of power play time, but other than a flubbed opportunity for Kyle Palmieri, they did not create much. The Stars, in Islanders fashion, suffocated the life out of New York’s offense: Nelson’s goal less than a minute into the game stood as their only shot-on-goal of the period for the next eighteen minutes before they finally got a couple of pucks on net in the last minute and a half. It wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the shot totals indicated, but the Islanders still didn’t have much going.

But to add concern, what looked like a decent shot near the end of the period actually turned costly, as Palmieri took Pelech’s point shot off his right boot and went down awkwardly while battling Faksa in front of the net. He could put very little weight on his right foot skating off when the period finished.

Third Period: Too Little, Too Late

Relieving the previous paragraph’s concern, Palmieri took the opening shift of the third period and skated just fine. And on the next Isles’ shift, Johnston rocked Hakanpää almost identical to his first time but nearly set up a goal this time. Going back the other way, Studenic rushed the net driving hard on Varlamov to put the puck on net, and Benn followed up for the rebound, but Varlamov stopped both.

On the fourth line’s next shift, they joined in a scrum, and Johnston and Benn each received two minutes for roughing—Benn went to grab Johnston and pulled off his helmet, and lost his own balance. Predictably, most of the four-on-four was spent in the Islanders’ zone, and just after it ended, Hutton took a holding-the-stick penalty. During that kill, where the Islanders gave up no shots, goalless Zdeno Chara took a pass from Pageau and rang it off the post.

They finally got some momentum coming out of that kill and trapped the Stars in their zone for two minutes, starting with Pageau nearly tipping Matt Martin’s wide-angle shot past Oettinger. It was the fourth line and the third pair that generated most of that zone time, too.

After that, it was the Mathew Barzal line’s turn to keep up the pressure. Oliver Wahlstrom, in particular, had two good shots while Barzal and Zach Parise swarmed the net. On that line’s next shift, Dobson went in one-on-four and allowed them to set up. Pelech shot the puck, and it bounced out to Barzal all alone on the wing, but Oettinger made an incredible shoulder save.

The Islanders had their chances with Varlamov pulled before Dallas gained control. I hoped that Dobson’s desperate save to prevent Joe Pavelski from putting away the game would have spurred on some magic, but on the ensuing possession, Barzal missed Nelson at the point with twenty-five seconds left, and the Islanders never recovered. The Stars hung on for the regulation win, dropping the Islanders’ tragic number to fifteen.

Notes and Thoughts

  • Dobson may have lost his battle against Seguin on the Stars’ second goal, but that goal was a bit fluky, and he otherwise was fantastic. His two primary assists on the Isles’ first two goals were his 39th and 40th points of the season.
  • Varlamov was very good again tonight. I was mad at him for the shorthanded goal until I realized Faksa tipped it. But deflections generally are tough and especially in that tight. And if it wasn’t for him, the Islanders probably wouldn’t have had a chance in the final minutes.
  • Pageau seems to be heating with goals in consecutive games. Glad to see his linemate Palmieri return to the game.
  • I don’t get what is and is not goaltender interference, and I don’t think I ever will.
  • Kevin Kurz is right: The Islanders looked tired, and with good reason, because they haven’t had a two-day break in nearly a month. They finally get one now, though they come back to a traveling back-to-back. It’s going to be a tough road to get there, folks.

Up Next

This weekend, the Islanders fly back east before flying back to the midwest: They visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night (7:00 p.m. ET start) and the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night (8:00 p.m. ET start).