The Dallas Stars were five minutes away from ending their five-game losing streak Sunday evening, but the New York Islanders scored three times over the final 4:16 of the game to defeat the Stars, 4-2, and push Dallas’ losing streak to six games.
“We backed off, stayed on our heels and were hoping for a better result,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
It was the second time in less than a week the Islanders trailed the Stars 2-0 after one period, and then rallied to win. Last Monday, the Islanders outscored the Stars 7-1 over the final two periods for a 7-3 victory. On Sunday, they outscored the Stars 4-0 over the second and third periods, including 3-0 over the final 4:16 of the game.
“It was a combination of them playing better after the first, and us turning pucks over at the wrong time, against the wrong line and sitting back,” said Stars forward Ray Whitney. “Any team will tell you, if you sit back in this league and let teams come at you, you are going to run into some problems. Tonight was like that. If it wasn’t for [goaltender Dan Ellis] it could have been much worse.”
The Stars carried a 2-1 lead late into the third period, but Islanders forward Kyle Okposo picked a corner from the right circle with 4:16 left in the game to tie it 2-2. Less than three minutes later, defenseman Calvin de Haan went into the corner and centered the puck to a wide open John Tavares, who scored from close range to put the Islanders up 3-2 with 1:24 remaining. Brock Nelson sealed the win with an empty net goal with 52 seconds left.
The Stars’ six straight losses have all come in regulation. They are now eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Islanders won their fourth straight game, seventh in their last eight and pushed their road winning streak to seven games.
“We knew we could turn it around,” said Okposo. “We had to try and come out and have a better second period. I thought we still came out a little slow in the second period, but we started to tilt the ice and by the end of that period I thought we had all the momentum. We came out in the third and we were going hard at them, but we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. [Ellis] made some really good saves and we were finally able to get one and find a way to win.”
The Stars opened the scoring at the 11:45 mark of the first period. Vernon Fiddler won a race to the puck, tapped it behind the New York net to Alex Chiasson, who sent it to Whitney, who beat Islanders goaltender Kevin Poulin with a shot from the left circle.
Ellis came up with a big save with the Stars on a power play, stopping Cal Clutterbuck on a shorthanded breakaway with 4:14 left in the period.
A little more than two minutes later, the Stars had a 2-0 lead. Sergei Gonchar picked off a pass at the point in the Islanders zone, skated to the right circle and fired the puck past Poulin with 1:48 left in the first. It was Gonchar’s first goals of the season and first as a Dallas Star.
“It was nice to have the first one,” Gonchar said. “But at the same time I would rather have a win than a goal.”
The Stars came close to making it a 3-0 game early in the second, but an Erik Cole shot off the rush hit the crossbar.
Ellis came up with a nice save on a Matt Martin redirection with 11 minutes left in the second to keep it a 2-0 game, but less than two minutes later the Islanders got on board when Okposo scored from the right circle to cap off an odd-man rush with 9:13 left in the second period.
The Stars went on a power play with 6:56 left in the second, and the Islanders had the best chance when the Stars coughed up the puck and Michael Grabner got a shorthanded breakaway, but Grabner couldn’t get off a quality shot and the Stars held onto their 2-1 lead.
Poulin came up with a big save on Valeri Nichushkin in the final minute of the period to keep it a one-goal game going into the third period, during which the Stars held the fort until the final four-and-a-half minutes.
“Right down to the final few minutes we had it,” said Ellis. “In the last five minutes they just capitalized on all their chances. We just didn’t dig deep enough, and they did.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.