The New York Islanders were looking to bounce back from a rough 5-4 loss to the Nashville Predators but instead lost 5-2 to the Dallas Stars. The loss gave the Islanders their second defeat on the four-game road trip and an 11-8 record on the season.
The last time the Islanders lost back-to-back games was at the beginning of the season when they lost three games in a row to the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers. While they have looked like a much-improved team since then, the recent defeats have exposed some of the issues in the roster. Moreover, the recent loss for the Islanders raises concerns for a team that is looking to compete for the Stanley Cup this season.
Islanders Defense Squanders Game
This game looked like one where Semyon Varlamov struggled in the net and cost the Islanders the game. However, he kept them in the game, saving 30 of the 34 shots he faced. Instead, the defense played poorly and cost the Islanders as they had multiple missed assignments and poor plays in their zone.
The defense allowed the Stars to find multiple shots in the slot and near the crease. Jamie Benn’s goal, which gave the Stars a 3-2 lead, came on quick puck movement that allowed him to find an open shot with only Varlamov in his path. The goal was possible as the Islanders lost him in the defensive zone and gave him a clear path to the goal, allowing him to score the decisive goal in the game.
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The Islanders have allowed 10 goals in a two-game span for the first time all season. Granted, the struggles defensively are part of the give-and-take with Lane Lambert behind the bench with his more aggressive style. At times, the Islanders will look like the most exciting team in the league with a high-powered offense that can overcome any deficit and overwhelm any defense in the league. However, there are also a handful of games where the aggressive play costs them and allows opponents to easily find the back of the net.
Barzal’s 2-Goal Night
Mathew Barzal is having an unusual season where he has been one of the best players on the team but couldn’t find the back of the net. Against the Stars, he snapped out of the scoring slump and found the back of the net. Moreover, Barzal scored twice in the game and carried the offense in the 5-2 loss as one of the few bright spots on the rough night.
The first goal came on a deflection where he redirected the puck past the Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger. While it wasn’t the typical goal the Islanders’ top-line center scores, it took a lot of pressure off him. The second goal he scored, however, looked like a conventional Barzal goal as he picked up the puck with speed skating in the slot and found the back of the net on a quick shot. Barzal gashes opposing defenses with speed and quick puck movement and his second goal put those skills on full display.
Barzal was already having a strong year as a passer with 19 assists but now he’s starting to show signs that he can become one of the best goal-scorers on the team. He has 21 points in only 19 games played and is on pace for a career year. Additionally, Barzal can put together a historic season and help lead one of the best offenses in the league, especially if he rounds out his game and continues to find the back of the net.
Islanders’ Power Play Continues to Struggle
With five power-play opportunities, the Islanders only scored once. Granted, they managed to find the back of the net on the man advantage, but the multiple opportunities allowed them to put the game away if they could’ve scored a second power-play goal. Instead, the Islanders allowed the Stars to not only come back but run away with the victory, scoring four unanswered goals.
The Islanders’ power play has only scored on 12 of their 58 opportunities this season. It’s been a liability for the team but has rarely cost them. If the unit continues to struggle, it can not only cost them in the standings but also derail their promising season.
Islanders Hit a Wall in Oettinger
The Stars have one of the best young goaltenders in the league in Oettinger who is having a remarkable season. The 23-year-old goaltender has a .927 save percentage and a 2.23 goals-against average on 301 shots and the Islanders saw firsthand how difficult it is to get the puck past him.
He saved 27 of the 29 shots he faced and made multiple pivotal saves to prevent the Islanders from controlling the game. This was the type of game that the Islanders needed to win in a low-scoring manner, especially since they were facing Oettinger, but ultimately, they couldn’t hold down the Stars’ offense. Against Oettinger, a two-goal deficit felt insurmountable, even for an offense that averages 3.39 goals per game.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders Loss
- Oliver Wahlstrom added an assist but was the primary reason Barzal scored his first goal of the season. Wahlstrom’s shot on goal was deflected into the back of the net by Barzal.
- The Islanders were outscored 3-0 in the third period. With 30 third-period goals this season, the Islanders have been one of the best teams in the NHL in the final period of play but they were hapless against the Stars.
- The Stars entered the game with a 10-5-2 record and are one of the best teams in the league. However, the Islanders failed to take advantage of a team that was dealing with significant injuries as Roope Hintz, who has eight goals and 14 assists, was a late scratch.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders wrap up their four-game road trip against the Toronto Maple Leafs and look to snap their two-game losing streak and avoid a three-game losing streak for the second time this season. The Maple Leafs are not only having a good season with a 10-5-4 record but are coming off a decisive 5-2 victory against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Islanders have been a great team this season and their 11-8 record reflects that. However, a losing streak to close out the month could put them behind in the Metropolitan Division and put a damper on an otherwise promising season.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.