DALLAS – For the Dallas Stars, there was some good news and some bad news Saturday night.
First, the good news: the Stars received two goals from the fourth line and another from the third, showed impressive character by battling back from an early 3-0 deficit and had three different players score their first goals of the season.
The bad news: despite playing the team ranked last in the Eastern Conference standings, the Stars surrendered four goals to the New York Islanders’ top line, and twice saw the Islanders respond to tying goals on the next shift.
The end result: a disappointing 5-4 defeat in front of 14,428 fans at the American Airlines Center.
After two straight wins and riding a 4-1-1 hot streak while missing five key regulars to injuries, the Stars couldn’t make one final comeback and fall to 15-10-1 on the season, although they do remain in first in the Pacific Division.
“We have some resiliency, I don’t think that’s going to change for us. However, we can’t keep battling back every night,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We’ve got to play with a little sense of urgency at home and make sure our first periods are better. It’s a lot easier to play with a lead than to climb back in, it takes a lot less energy, and also, you get another team out of their comfort zone where they take a chance here and there, you can counter-punch there. We’ve got to come out with better starts.”
“I think there’s good things and bad things we can take out of this,” said fourth line forward Jake Dowell, who scored a goal and an assist. “Obviously, we’re great at coming back and we have a lot of character in the locker room and we never quit, but sometimes I feel like we’re trying to see how many goals we can come back from and I don’t think that’s good. It’s not a fun game to play. We need to really bear down and get the first goal and go from there and stop trying to play from behind.”
In addition to Dowell, fellow fourth liner Tom Wandell also notched a goal and an assist, as that line tied the game at 3-3 and 4-4 during the second period.
“They were our best line,” Gulutzan said of the trio that also includes Toby Petersen. “I thought for the ice time they got, they contributed immensely. I was happy for those three, because they got rewarded for some work they’ve put in for a while. It’s good for their confidence, because at this juncture with the injuries, we need everyone to contribute and I certainly thought they did tonight.”
“That’s big, everybody’s chipping in and that’s important,” added third liner Eric Nystrom, who also scored. “Most games if your third and fourth lines score, you got a chance. We scored enough goals tonight, but we had a tough time keeping it out. If you give up five, you’re going to have a hard time winning.”
A special performance from the Islanders’ top line of sniper Matt Moulson, who scored a career-high four goals, John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau, who each added three assists, was just too much for the Stars to overcome.
“Their top guys had a big night and if a top line’s going to score four goals, you’re going to have a tough time winning,” Nystrom said. “Obviously, we had a tough start, we spotted them a three-goal lead. We battled back, but you can’t give any team a three-goal lead in this league and expect to win and we almost did.”
Goaltender Andrew Raycroft made his third consecutive start in place of injured number one netminder Kari Lehtonen, and while he did surrender five goals on 27 shots, Raycroft also made several big saves, including two breakaways.
Entering the second period trailing 2-0, things would get worse for the Stars before they got better. Islander defenseman Dylan Reese put them in a three-goal hole when he fired a rolling puck from the point that sailed past several bodies in front and over Raycroft’s glove at 2:48.
The goal seemed to finally wake up the Stars, as they responded with a stunning three goals in just 2:03 to tie it at 3-3, beginning 49 seconds later when Vincour was credited with his first goal of the season and second of his NHL career. Stephane Robidas drilled a slap shot from the right point that appeared to deflect off Vincour, who was battling for position in front, and in.
Dallas took 1:16 to get the next one, as Nystrom continued his red-hot scoring binge with his 10th of the year at 4:53. Vernon Fiddler controlled the puck behind the net and swept a pass out front that pinged off Reese to Nystrom, who buried it past Islander goaltender Rick DiPietro.
Dowell tied it just 37 seconds later, beating DiPietro with a quick wrist shot from the left circle after receiving a nice backhand pass from behind the net by Wandell.
“It was really nice to get the first one,” said Dowell, who hadn’t scored in 42 total games, dating back to last February when he was with Chicago. “I think it’s definitely the longest drought I’ve had in my career and it was frustrating, but it was just something that I had to work through. Petey and Wandy did a nice job getting the puck down low and getting control of it, and I was just kind of hanging out high and Wandy laid it out there nice so I could just skate into it and shoot.”
Unfortunately for the Stars, the Islanders struck back just 27 seconds after that, as Moulson completed his third career hat trick at 5:57, capping off a wild stretch that saw five combined goals in a 3:09 span.
Tavares set up the goal by whirling out from behind the Dallas net and feeding a sweet backhand pass through several legs in front to Moulson alone in the right circle, where a one-timer found the open side of the net.
Moulson nearly got another one at 14:23 when he sped in on a breakaway during an Islander power play, but Raycroft made a nice save.
The Stars then evened things up again at 4-4 when Wandell struck for his first of the year at 16:08, receiving a nifty pass from Dowell along the right side-boards as he entered the New York zone as the late man and booming a one-timer past DiPietro.
“Very good play from him,” Wandell said of Dowell. “He waited and waited, and I was pretty much the last guy, put on a slapper and it went in. It was a pretty big goal, but too bad they scored the shift after.”
Once again, the Islanders answered quickly, as Moulson connected for his fourth of the night 1:02 later. This time, defenseman Sheldon Souray got caught up ice when the puck deflected off a linesman at center ice, allowing Parenteau to fly past him into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1. As he reached the high slot, Parenteau fed a pass across the sliding Robidas, to Moulson for an easy tap-in.
Heading into the final period trailing 5-4, the Stars got a big save from Raycroft at 4:33 when Michael Grabner motored into the Dallas zone on a breakaway, and tried to slip a backhander through the five-hole, only to be denied.
Vincour nearly set up the tying goal at 8:41 when he led a 2-on-1 rush into the right circle. After evading the last Islander defenseman back, he slid the puck around him in front for the charging Steve Ott, but Ott couldn’t quite connect with it.
Overall, Dallas had trouble generating the same kind of offense that they did in the second. The Islanders replaced DiPietro with former Texas Tornado netminder Al Montoya for the third period, and he made 13 saves, none of which were all that threatening.
“They did a really good job, they were just chipping pucks out and getting it into the neutral zone and they were chipping it in,” said Nystrom of the stifling defense they ran into in the third. “Obviously, both teams wanted to tighten things up after that second period, but they just got that one-goal lead and just stuck to it and we couldn’t find that equalizer.”
The Stars did have a couple of late opportunities, after Raycroft was pulled for an extra attacker with 1:11 remaining in regulation. Seconds after that, Jamie Benn sped into the Islander zone and fired a wrist shot from the high slot that Montoya stopped, but let a loose rebound out front, and Benn swiped it on goal.
Then with just 8.3 seconds on the clock, Michael Ryder fired an uncontested wrist shot from the left circle, but Montoya made a nice shoulder save to clinch the triumph.
After the Stars jumped out of the chute pretty quickly, failing to capitalize on two early power plays, the pendulum swung back the other way midway through the period when Moulson connected for two goals in just under two minutes.
First, at 8:55, with the Islanders on the power play, captain Mark Streit fired a slap shot from the right point that hit Nicklas Grossman in front before Tavares tapped the loose puck over to Moulson, who knocked it past the scrambling Raycroft.
The Islanders made it 2-0 when Tavares and Moulson raced into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush. Tavares carried into the right face-off circle before abruptly stopping short and, as lone defender Robidas sprawled out to take away the pass option, fired a wrist shot wide. The puck then ricocheted off the end boards and bounced out the other side, where Moulson evaded the backchecking Souray and popped it home at 10:54.
Mouslon almost got another one just 1:02 later when, on another power play, Raycroft managed to get his stick on his rebound chance in front and the puck bounced up and landed on top of the net, where Raycroft smothered it.
Tavares almost set up another one with just 40 seconds remaining in the period, when his pass out of the left corner found Kyle Okposo in front for the re-direct, but Raycroft came up with a huge save.
The Stars now get a nice four-day rest to continue recovering before embarking on an epic five-game road trip that begins next Thursday night in San Jose (9:30 pm start, FSSW). They expect to have captain Brenden Morrow and defenseman Trevor Daley back by then, while the hope is that blueliner Alex Goligoski can return sometime later on the trip.
“We got some guys that are banged up and could use the rest and obviously, there are some things in our game we could fine-tune and get it back to where we need it to be,” said Nystrom of the break. “We’re still playing some pretty good hockey, we just need to stay on track and stay positive and put this one behind us. We got some big ones coming up and get after it.”
- Moulson became the first opponent to score four against the Stars since Keith Tkachuk of the previous incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets did it back in March 1996.
- Dowell’s first point as a Star came in his 18th game of the season.
- After going pointless in his first eight NHL contests this season, Vincour now has points in two straight games.
- Nystrom scored for the third straight game and tied Loui Eriksson for the team lead with 10 goals. He now has five goals in the last five outings and seven points (five goals, two assists) in the last seven games.
- Before notching his first multi-point game of the season, Wandell had one assist in the first 20 contests.
- Robidas earned an assist for the third straight contest, after notching just one assist in the previous 10
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