Opening a five-game homestand that features mostly challenging opponents with a game against the Stars, the Islanders needed to play much better than they did on the four-game road trip they just got back from. They did what they needed to do to beat a team with average goaltending or a team with great goaltending if they get a break.
But Oettinger is an excellent goaltender, and he allowed the Islanders no breaks. He got the Stars to overtime and then prevented the Islanders, whose shootout game may best be described as inept, from scoring a goal in the skills competition. Ilya Sorokin played a great game, too, and Jason Roberston was the only skater to beat him—both in regulation and in the shootout.
In injury news, Mathew Barzal and Simon Holmstrom returned to the lineup and started on the same line together. Aatu Räty did not play.
On Barzal’s first shift, he led a numbered-up rush with Holmstrom that ended in a dump-in, but the Brock Nelson line picked up where they left off, leading to a good chance for Anthony Beauvillier down low and then for Josh Bailey trying to tip a point try from Noah Dobson.
However, the Stars struck first on their first shot of the game. To finish a slow-breaking rush chance, Roberston slipped right past Parker Wotherspoon and one-timed a gorgeous if not all that difficult pass from Joe Pavelski. 1-0 Dallas.
The Islanders were undeterred and frankly controlled the run of play despite giving up the first goal. Nelson, who entered tonight not having scored a goal in nine games, had a wide-open chance from the faceoff dot but put it wide of Jake Oettinger.
Their strong play earned them a power play when Radek Faksa tripped up Alex Romanov. Though the power play has been a huge issue over the last month, the Islanders were up to set up long enough for Anders Lee to score and tie the game. From the point, Dobson got the puck to Nelson for a one-timed slap pass that Lee missed with his stick but caught with his foot. There was no review for a kicking motion issue, and the game was 1-1.
Until they scored, it felt like this period’s strong effort might have been wasted. But the Stars and Isles went to the first intermission knotted at 1-1.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau led a solo chance in the first half minute, and then Nelson ripped a shot off the crossbar on a two-on-one, so the period got off to a nice start. The Nelson line then forced a turnover in the offensive zone that led to a turnaround odd-man chance that went Bailey to Beauvillier to Nelson, but Oettinger stopped that try and Bailey’s rebound attempt.
Hudson Fasching nearly sneaked a puck through Oettinger’s arms from his position down low. And then, after the Stars hemmed them in for a few dangerous chances, the Nelson line went back the other way for a broken yet pretty play that Nelson, from right in front of Oettinger, couldn’t get past the Dallas goalie.
Everything written to this point about the period occurred before the first commercial of the period. The Stars turned the tide in terms of spending time in the offensive zone until the Barzal line led successive rushes, which ended that caused Joel Kiviranta to trip Lee. Dallas’ penalty kill erased anything the Islanders put together on that try and the next penalty by Pavelski.
Casey Cizikas thought he scored the go-ahead goal with just over 30 seconds remaining in the period, but it turned out that the Islanders never touched up from going offside when the puck left the zone, and the whistle blew before the puck went in. To add further insult, Cal Clutterbuck got called for playing the puck with a broken stick with seven seconds left.
Dallas had nearly a full power play to work with to start the third period, but the Islanders put in some good work to kill off Clutterbuck’s odd penalty—and his main PK partner put in perhaps the best work, racing down Robertson to a puck in the Stars’ zone and battling him to the ice. The Islanders nearly took advantage of that momentum when Fasching picked off a pass in the defensive zone and orchestrated a two-on-one with Pageau. Oettinger needed to be sharp there and was.
Sorokin matched him a minute later by robbing Wyatt Johnston on a wraparound, and I have no idea how he got across the crease because I thought it was going in. But in the next breath, Oettinger made another big save, this one on Holmstrom opting to shoot on a two-on-one.
Oettinger continued his heroics when Barzal created more offense halfway through the period. Barzal patiently waited with the puck for an open look on a change, which he got with Sebastian Aho entering the zone, but Oettinger blocked that. As the puck cycled back around, it found Bailey alone in the slot. He missed wide, but the puck bounced off the back boards to Lee in the crease. He couldn’t get good wood while engaged in a net-front battle, and that was enough for Oettinger to keep the puck out.
The Stars’ netminder didn’t stop there. He blocked a 98 mph blast from Pulock. Fasching made a sweet play in no space to find Pageau wide open in the slot, but Oettinger got a piece of it. Then, in the final minute, he got in front of a similar try by Pageau before robbing Scott Mayfield wide open and Zach Parise on the deflected follow-up basically as time expired.
Sorokin was strong early after Parise wasn’t able to keep the puck moving through the neutral zone. The Islanders responded with Beauvillier one-timing a pass from Pulock. But then the Stars gained control and essentially didn’t let go of it.
Dallas trapped Nelson, Barzal, and Dobson for a couple of line changes. Nelson was able to sneak off for Pageau, but Barzal and Dobson got stuck out there for the last three and a half minutes. They got away with staying on for a breakaway rush for Dobson that nearly ended it, and we went to the shootout.
Roberston scored on the first try of the shootout, and that turned out to be the difference. Though Sorokin beat Pavelski and then Gurianov to keep them alive, Oettinger turned aside each of Barzal, Beauvillier, and Nelson to secure the extra point for the Stars.
Notes and Thoughts
- Welp, they played well enough to win. That was a strong game against a very good team in the Stars, and the Islanders got goalie’d by Oettinger. But in the same vein, they still lack that extra game-breaking pure offensive talent that can beat an ‘on’ goalie like Oettinger. At least they grabbed a loser point.
- Unfortunately for them, they didn’t exactly keep pace with the teams around them, and they can’t really afford to lose points after that last road trip.
- The bad news: The Red Wings, Penguins, and Rangers all won. The Isles are now a point behind Pittsburgh, who has two games in hand, and five and six points behind the Capitals and Rangers, respectively. They only have a game in hand on Washington.
- The good news: The Sabres, who have begun nipping at their heels, lost at home in regulation to the Kraken tonight, one night after getting shutout by the Flyers the night before. They still have games in hand on the Islanders, but they didn’t accumulate any more points.
- Butch Goring is often labeled as a homer, and I agree that he is for sure an Islander fan. But homers generally paint a picture where everything is beautiful for the team—think Joe Micheletti since he crossed the East River. Butchie laid into the guys in the minutes before puck drop. It was like he was Coach Goring back in the video room in 1999, pointing out lazy defensive lapses by Anthony Beauvillier and Noah Dobson in Friday’s loss to the Calgary Flames.
The homestand continues Thursday night against another Central Division opponent, the Minnesota Wild. That will also be a 7:30 p.m. ET start.