Call the Dallas Stars what you will — just don’t call them boring.
The Stars surrendered the first goal for the seventh straight game Thursday night. They jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second period, only to see it melt away into a 5-3 deficit in the third. Captain Jamie Benn scored his second goal of the night shorthanded to pull the Stars within one, but the New York Islanders held on for a 5-4 road win.
The loss was yet another roller-coaster ride in a season of disappointment for the Stars.
“It hurts, it really hurts,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “You watched one go in off the end wall and you think, what’s going to happen next. Still, if we defend better we should be going into overtime. There’s no excuse for the way we defended a couple of those goals.”
“A couple of tough goals and a couple of really bad plays defensively killed us,” Ruff continued. “The fourth goal killed us with the way we defended it with our best players on the ice. It wasn’t good enough.”
Adding injury to insult, Stars forward Antoine Roussel was hurt late in the first period and did not return to the game. Afterward, Ruff said of the abrasive French forward, “It’s not good news. I don’t have a timeframe but it’s going to be awhile. In all likelihood, the rest of the year.”
Islanders coach Doug Weight was happy to get the win but not nearly as pleased with the way his team got there.
“Well, it’s a win,” said Weight. “It’s hard to critique them when they win but I seem to being doing that right now. I’m having trouble talking because I’m thinking about the game. We had really great spans that we took it to them and we were really a five-man team and then we had some mostly bonehead decisions against a team that’s going to make you pay…We’ve got to limit those dumb plays and play to our strength and that’s using our speed and getting in their zone.
Weight complimented the play of his defensemen, however, saying “I thought we generated – I’m not even sure what the shots were by our defense – a lot of opportunities by our defense.”
The Isles’ coach added, “They were getting available, they were moving across the line and I didn’t notice a lot of shots being blocked. They got it down by the paint, down behind the net and we could let our forwards work their magic a little bit because we had a pretty fast lineup in there.”
For just the second time this season, the Islanders won when trailing after two periods of play; conversely, the Stars lost in regulation for just the second time when leading after two.
The Stars got off to a good start against the Islanders, moving the puck well and spending time in the offensive zone. Near the midpoint of the period, with the Stars leading 4-3 in shots and in the middle of another productive shift, Isles winger Jason Chimera forced a turnover just inside his own blue line. Teammate Ryan Strome scooped up the loose puck and took off toward the opposing net, beating Stars goalie Antti Niemi to give the Islanders the lead.
The teams traded chances for much of the back half of the period. Antoine Roussel blocked a Johnny Boychuk shot at the 17:31 mark, ending his night and possibly his season.
Islander blueliner Calvin de Haan was called for hi-sticking at 17:53. With 7.4 seconds left on the clock (and 0.4 seconds remaining on the power play), Benn finished a beauty of a play by Jason Spezza to tie the game.
The period ended 1-1, but the Stars led 10-8 in shots on goal.
Early in the second, Islander rookie Josh Ho-Sang drew a tripping call against big Jamie Oleksiak. On the ensuing power play, Ales Hemsky, playing in his first game since October, took a shot off his lower leg which hobbled him. The Czech forward was slow to get up, but skated off under his own power and played the rest of the game.
Little more than a minute after the penalty was killed, Radek Faksa pulled off a highlight-reel rail slide along the boards to escape a hip check, then finished the play with a goal to put the Stars up 2-1.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) March 3, 2017
Less than three minutes later, Spezza buried a slap-pass from John Klingberg to extend the Stars’ lead to 3-1.
The Islanders got one goal back late when Strome carried the puck across the slot and rang a shot off the outside of the post, which linemate Andrew Ladd tucked into the net.
The Stars led 3-2 after two despite being outshot 19-18 by the Isles.
The visitors tied the game 25 seconds into the period, when defenseman Nick Leddy let ‘er rip from the blue line. The puck ricocheted off the end boards to the front of the net, ticked off Niemi’s left skate and in.
Leddy’s goal shifted the entire Isles’ squad into high gear. Shift after shift, they swarmed the Stars’ zone, generating five shots on net in the three minutes following Leddy’s tally. At 7:46 of the third, the Islanders’ efforts were rewarded when Dennis Seidenberg fired the puck from the left point past a screened Niemi, giving his team a 4-3 lead.
Less than two minutes after Seidenberg scored, Leddy carried the puck from his own blue line all the way down below the Stars’ goal line before dishing it out front to Nikolay Kulemin, who didn’t miss from the doorstep.
The Islanders turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead without allowing the Stars a single shot on goal. By the 13:17 mark, the visitors were out-shooting their hosts 11-1 for the period.
Faksa was tagged for tripping at 16:07. During the television timeout prior to the power play, Stars fans mustered their loudest cheer of the period to that point for one of their own, when the arena cam zeroed in on a guy in a Victory Green jersey and puckhead hat who proceeded to chug a 20-ounce beer. Eyes watering and immediate regret rising in his throat, the beer-filled fan smiled and waved to the crowd while fighting the urge to vomit, perfectly mirroring the emotions of the other 17,437 fans in attendance.
While on the penalty kill, the Stars’ captain gave the fans a glimmer of hope by stealing the puck at his own blue line and racing in to backhand the biscuit past Greiss and cut the Isles’ lead to one. Despite pulling Niemi with 1:23 remaining, however, the Stars simply couldn’t find the equalizer and sent their fans home entertained, but disappointed.
NYI – Ryan Strome (12) assisted by Jason Chimera (10)
DAL – Jamie Benn (22) (PPG) assisted by Tyler Seguin (40) and Jason Spezza (26)
DAL – Radek Faksa (9) assisted by Patrick Sharp (9) and Greg Pateryn (6)
DAL – Jason Spezza (10) assisted by John Klingberg (28) and Tyler Seguin (41)
NYI – Andrew Ladd (17) assisted by Ryan Strome (15) and Josh Bailey (32)
NYI – Nick Leddy (10) assisted by Anders Lee (15) and John Tavares (30)
NYI – Dennis Seidenberg (5) assisted by Calvin de Haan (13) and Ryan Strome (16)
NYI – Nikolay Kulemin (11) assisted by Nick Leddy (24)
DAL – Jamie Benn (23) (SHG) unassisted
THW Three Stars
First: Nick Leddy (1 goal, 1 assist)
Second: Jamie Benn (2 goals)
Third: Ryan Strome (1 goal, 2 assists)
Dallas Stars at Florida Panthers
BB & T Center – 6:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, Mar. 4
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, FS-F
2016-17 Season Series: Dec. 31 – Panthers 3, Stars 1
New York Islanders at Chicago Blackhawks
United Center – 8:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Mar. 3
Broadcast channels: WGN, MSG+
2016-17 Season Series: Dec. 15 – Blackhawks 5, Islanders 4
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.