Stars not aligned for Isles to beat Dallas
Puck-luck and sluggishness lead to rare defeat at Barclays Center
Anders Lee scored a pair of goals, including his team-high 19th of the season, Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Unfortunately, both tallies came after the game had long been decided.
Lee’s late flurry couldn’t come close to helping the New York Islanders overcome a sluggish start and some poor puck-luck in an eventual 5-2 loss to the visiting Dallas Stars in front of 10,316 paying patrons on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
With the loss, the Islanders (17-11-3, 37 points) slipped to 9-2-2 at home this season, suffering just their second regulation defeat at Barclays, and first since a 6-5 setback to Ottawa on Dec. 1.
New York also endured a two-game season series sweep at the hands of the Stars, who stifled the Isles 5-0 in Dallas back on Nov. 10.
“I remember that game in Dallas we couldn’t get going and they dominated us,” said Lee, who is now one goal ahead of team captain John Tavares for the team lead.
“I didn’t feel like they dominated us tonight,” Lee added. “It was more that they capitalized on their opportunities.”
And the Isles didn’t.
New York hit several posts while trying to beat Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen, who finished with 32 saves en route to becoming the 33rd netminder in NHL history with 300 career victories.
Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas both appeared to have Lehtonen beat during the second period, but both pucks caught iron and caromed back harmlessly toward the ice, leaving New York to lament a series of missed chances while the Stars continued to cash in on their opportunities.
Tyler Pitlick scored twice and Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists for the Stars, who chased New York starting goalie Jaroslav Halak after he surrendered four goals on 20 shots through the first 30 minutes.
“It was a sluggish game, but it was a sluggish game by both teams,” Isles head coach Doug Weight said after the Isles fell to fell to 1-3-1 in their last five games.
“I guarantee we had 25 good opportunities,” Weight added. “You’re going to lose some of those and give them credit, they got the lead, capitalized. I’m just looking at the whole picture. It was a winnable game.”
Tavares and Bailey finished with two assists apiece for New York, which had little time to lick its wounds before heading to Metropolitan Division-leading Columbus for a key early season showdown Thursday night.
The Isles are only two points back of the Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, whom they beat here in Brooklyn Monday night, for the top spot in the division.
But Tavares believes New York will need a better all-around effort than it put forth against Dallas to have a quick bounce-back against Columbus.
“The effort wasn’t up to our standards,” said Tavares. “We know that. We weren’t executing consistently enough to really dictate the terms of the game.”
Halak was in the middle of everything that went wrong for New York, just two nights after a brilliant effort between the pipes in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Capitals.
The 32-year-old Slovakian ceded Pitlick’s first tally at 7:37 of the opening period, and was burned by Alexander Radulov on a soft wrister that snuck through his pads and trickled past the goal line with just over four minutes left in the stanza.
“I think he knows he has to have the second one,” Weight said of Halak, who was unbeaten in his previous five starts at Barclays this season. “It’s frustrating. We’re all frustrated and I’m sure he is too.”
The frustration mounted in the second as the Isles seemed to draw iron with their best chances while the Stars got goals from Remi Elle and Benn, sending Halak to the bench for Thomas Greiss, who stopped six of the seven shots he faced.
“Some things didn’t go our way, but I don’t think we helped ourselves in the first half of the game,” noted Tavares, who remained one point behind Bailey (35 points) for the team lead.
“We seemed sluggish,” he added. “Seemed to fight the puck a little bit and didn’t move quick enough. It didn’t allow us to establish our forecheck.”
After being down 10-0 in the aggregate versus Dallas, Lee finally got the Isles on the scoreboard by stuffing home a pair of rebounds, the second of which came on the power play with 3:32 to play.
But by then it was too late for the Isles to save anything but a little face in their annual regular-season two-step with the Stars.
Isle Have Another: Lee’s multi-goal effort was his team-leading fifth of this season, and he also became the first Islander to reach 19 goals before Christmas since Jason Blake accomplished the feat back in 2006 … Bailey’s 30 assists moved him into a four-way tie with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek for the NHL lead … Despite their recent slump, the Isles are still far better off than they were at this point last year, when they owned an 11-14-6 mark through 31 games … Following their quick trip to Columbus, the Isles will kick off a four-game homestand here, beginning Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
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