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Islanders rally past Stars for seventh straight road win

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- For nearly 38 minutes, it looked like the Dallas Stars would snap their five-game losing streak. However, the New York Islanders scored three times in the final 4:16 to prevail 4-2 at American Airlines Center on Sunday.

Kyle Okposo scored his second of the night at 15:44 of the third to tie the game at 2-2, blistering a wrister from the left point that Stars goaltender Dan Ellis never saw. Okposo's shot rang off the far post before going over the line. And following a short review, his goal was deemed valid.

John Tavares delivered the game-winner 3:08 later when he beat Ellis with a wrister from the right side. Brock Nelson added an empty-net goal at 19:08 for the Islanders, who won their seventh straight away from home.

"Well, we knew we could turn it around," Okposo said of the Islanders, who trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes. "We had to try to come out and have a better second period. I thought still in the second period we came out a little bit slow, but started to tilt the ice. By the end of that period, I thought we had all that momentum. We came out in the third, we were going hard at him and we just couldn't put the puck in the net. [Ellis] made some really big saves. We were finally able to get one and find a way to win."

Dallas lost for the sixth straight time in regulation for the first time since the 1995-96 season. The Stars lost despite leading 2-0 after one period, much like they did in a 7-3 loss to the Islanders at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum last Monday.

"We turned the puck over too many times,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We gave them breakaways. Dan (Ellis) made probably three or four great saves to keep the score where it was at. It caught up to us."

Kevin Poulin made 29 saves for the Islanders and rookie defenseman Calvin de Haan had two assists. New York trails the Philadelphia Flyers by seven points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"He’s playing confident," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of de Haan. "He's playing with poise. It's a great story, honestly. He's stepped in for us and he's done a really good job for us. He's getting the ice time and he's playing with a little confidence, which helps too."

After controlling the game for much of the first period, Dallas struck first when Ray Whitney flicked a wrister from the left circle under Poulin's glove 11:45 into the game.

Stars center Vernon Fiddler started the sequence by sacrificing himself behind the New York goal, slipping the puck to Alex Chiasson before being leveled by a hit from Islanders defenseman Matt Donovan. Chiasson then passed it to Whitney, who finished for his fifth of the season.

New York had a great chance to level the game at 15:46 of the first when Cal Clutterbuck had a breakaway with the Islanders shorthanded. However, his wrister was denied on a pad save by Ellis.

The Stars doubled their lead at 18:12 of the second when Sergei Gonchar intercepted a pass in the Islanders zone and beat Poulin with a wrister from the high slot for his first goal in a Dallas uniform.

New York's Frans Nielsen was attempting a pass to Nelson inside his zone, but Gonchar jumped the play and made the visitors pay with his first goal since April 25, 2013 at the Washington Capitals as a member of the Ottawa Senators.

Dallas had a great chance to take a three-goal lead 1:12 into the second period when Erik Cole skated across the front of the visiting goal and tried to score with a wrister from the slot, but his shot rang instead off the crossbar.

And after pushing hard for goal through the first 12 minutes of the second, the Islanders cut the Dallas lead in half when Okposo beat Ellis five-hole with a wrister from the right circle. Okposo's goal, his 18th of the season, came after a great sequence with Thomas Vanek, one of his two assists in the game, and Tavares.

Vanek's pass from the right circle was a bit behind Okposo, and after he collected the puck in the slot, he skated into the right circle, where he finished for his sixth goal in seven games.

The Islanders created another solid opportunity at 10:12 of the third when an Okposo pass from behind the Dallas net found Vanek, who was streaking toward goal. Ellis got a piece of Vanek's wrister from the slot, sending it high.

At 12:38 of the third, Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt was called for hooking, giving the Islanders a later power play. The Stars' penalty kill however hung tough and kept the visitors from tying the game.

Okposo's second of the game with 4:16 remaining in regulation, a blistering wrister from the right point, forced overtime. Okposo's shot from distance clanged off the far post before going over the line.

New York played the final period with five defensemen after Travis Hamonic couldn't return to the ice for the final 20 minutes.

"[He] just wasn't feeling well," Capuano said. "We'll re-evaluate him tomorrow and know more tomorrow."

Ellis finished with 27 saves for Dallas.

"I thought he gave us a chance to win," Ruff said of his goaltender. "I don't think there's a lot you can do about what happened on the third goal. We skated in front of him just at the last second. I don't think he saw it. He made the saves that could have allowed us to win the game, even get a point out of the game."

Each team returns to the ice Tuesday; New York continues its six-game road trip at the Florida Panthers and Dallas continues its three-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers.

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