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Penalties plague Stars in 6-5 loss to Islanders

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars staged another third-period rally Sunday evening in Brooklyn, but this one came up short, and the Stars fell, 6-5, to the New York Islanders at Barclays Center.

The Stars, who fell in a shootout at New Jersey Saturday, have now lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

“We don’t want to make this a trend obviously,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “Your best players have to be your best players. That’s about it.”

“We haven’t played our best hockey,” said Stars defensemen Alex Goligoski. “Mentally we are not there. We’ve got to reset and reset quickly. It’s pretty simple.”

Penalties plagued the Stars in this game. The Stars spent ten minutes of the game killing penalties and allowed two power-play goals.

“When we spend the amount of time we did killing penalties, there is a lot of bad stuff that is going to happen,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Benn racked up six minutes in penalties in the first ten minutes of the game. He took a holding penalty 32 seconds into the contest and then was given a double minor for high-sticking midway through the first period that led to the Islanders getting a four-on-three power play. New York scored during the advantage to tie the game 1-1.

“The first one was stupid and selfish,” Benn said of the penalties. “The second one was stupid.”

Another key penalty call was on Stars defenseman Jason Demers, who was given a boarding major and a game misconduct for a hit on Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck early in the second period. The Islanders scored on that power play to take a 3-2 lead. The Islanders grabbed momentum and scored two more goals to make it a 5-2 game later in the second. Clutterbuck, who left the game with an injury after the hit from Demers, returned and scored the fifth New York goal.

Ruff did not agree with Demers’ punishment.

“I think the guy that got hit has a history of diving. I looked at the play. I don’t think he elbowed him; I don’t think he did anything really,” Ruff said. “And he didn’t seem to be hurt, but he sold a pretty good one to us. Maybe he deserved a minor penalty. That’s my take on it.”

Said Clutterbuck: "That [hit] was a tough one. I didn't really see what was happening or see it coming or anything. I just obviously felt the after effects of it, so I came in the [dressing room] to make sure I wasn't hurt or concussed or anything.”

Clutterbuck would score a second goal – this one shorthanded – to put the Islanders up 6-3 in the third period. That goal would stand up as the game-winner.

But the Stars made a game of it in the third, cutting the Islanders lead to 6-5 with just under two minutes remaining, but they couldn’t get the equalizer. Valeri Nichushkin scored two goals for the Stars. Vernon Fiddler, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza also scored. Kari Lehtonen got the start in goal and went the distance, allowing six goals on 44 shots.

“That’s a hard game to judge,” Ruff said of Lehtonen’s performance. “He had to face a lot of rubber. He had to face a lot of tough opportunities. You look at some of the point-blank opportunities, and some of the plays and you can’t blame those on your goaltender. Not at all.”

The Stars lost for the sixth time in their past seven road games (1-3-3). They hit the midway point of their season with 60 points (28-9-4).

The Islanders, who won for the fourth time in their past six games, improved to 22-13-5 on the season.

“They got desperate at the end and started throwing everything at the net and got a couple bounces,” Clutterbuck said. “But overall I thought we played really well, we tracked the puck hard, we managed the puck for the most part pretty well, which is something you have to do against a team that has that much offense.”

The Stars and Islanders were tied 2-2 after one period. The Stars struck first when Radek Faksa drove the net and Fiddler scored off a rebound at the 5:55 mark for a 1-0 Dallas lead. The Stars got in penalty trouble a few minutes later when Benn and Cody Eakin took back-to-back high-sticking penalties, and Anders Lee tied the game on a four-on-three power play, beating Lehtonen with a backhand shot from close range at the 10:34 mark. The Stars regained the lead at the 13:30 mark after Sharp deflected home a Goligoski shot from the point to make it a 2-1 game. The Islanders drew even at the 18:28 mark when Kyle Okposo scored off the rebound of a Frans Nielsen shot.

The Islanders broke the game open with three goals in the second. The first one came with Demers out of the game after getting the major penalty and game misconduct for boarding Clutterbuck. Okposo scored his second of the game on the power play when his shot deflected past Lehtonen off the skate of Goligoski, giving the Islanders a 3-2 lead at 8:13 of the second.

The Islanders made it 4-2 at the 15:02 mark when Ryan Strome set up a wide-open Mikhail Grabovski, who scored into the open side of the net from close range. Clutterbuck roofed a shot from the left circle at the 17:43 mark and the Islanders took a 5-2 lead into the second intermission.

The Stars made it interesting in the third. Nichushkin scored off the rush 1:46 into the period to cut the New York lead to 5-3. The Stars had two power-play chances to cut into the lead. They missed on the first one and then on the second, Casey Cizikas won a puck battle and then set up a wide-open Clutterbuck, who scored from close range to make it 6-3.

Nichushkin scored 26 seconds later on the power play, and Spezza scored with the Stars net empty and an extra attacker on the ice at the 18:18 mark to cut the Islanders lead to 6-5. But the Stars couldn’t draw even and lost their second straight game for the first time this season.

“A little adversity. We didn’t want to lose two in a row, and we have a big challenge in the New York Rangers coming up,” said Benn. “We just have to keep working hard, play the system and your best players have to be your best players.”

*The Stars are 4-2-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

*The Stars are 15-6-1 vs. the Eastern Conference, including 8-2-1 vs. the Metropolitan Division.

*The Islanders outshot the Stars 44-41, and the Stars had a 68-66 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with six shots on goal and seven attempted shots.

*Sharp extended his points streak to nine games (six goals, six assists).

*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play and 4-6 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 34 of 65 faceoffs (52 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 11 of 20 faceoffs (55 percent). Tyler Seguin won 6 of 11 faceoffs (55 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 16 (38 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 3 of 4 (43 percent). Mattias Janmark won 4 of 4 (100 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 26:27 of ice time.

The Stars wrap up their three-game road trip when they take on the New York Rangers Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselMattias JanmarkColton Sceviour

Radek FaksaVernon FiddlerTravis Moen

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Eaves, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: Ales Hemsky (lower body)

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 reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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