The Dallas Stars wrapped up a five-game homestand in impressive fashion, shutting out the New York Islanders, 3-0, at American Airlines Center Saturday night.
The Stars went 3-1-1 on a homestand that saw them face five quality teams – Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders – over nine days.
“I think we played a pretty good week and did a lot of good things,” said Stars center Cody Eakin. “We have a few games left to tweak what we need to before the real season starts. The last week we played some good, hard hockey. It’s been a good test for us.”
Kari Lehtonen, making his seventh start in the past eight games, stopped 27 shots for his second shutout of the season and the 34th of his career.
“It was fun, and they [shutouts] have been rare this season,” Lehtonen said. “I had some good simple saves early and went from there. We did a good job blocking shots, and the rebounds didn’t go to their guys. It was one of those nights, and I’m happy we got the win.”
Eakin, Patrick Eaves and Ales Hemsky scored goals for the Stars, who turned in a strong defensive effort against the Islanders. The Stars didn’t give up a much in the way of quality chances and blocked 26 shots on the night.
“Obviously, this is how we want to play,” said Stars defenseman John Klingberg, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with a lower-body injury. “I think we gave up a couple of grade-A chances for them, but during the whole game I think we did a really good job and a really good team job, and obviously Kari made some good saves.”
The Stars, who are 5-1-2 in their past eight games, improved to 43-21-9 (95 points). The Stars could clinch a playoff spot Sunday if Minnesota loses in regulation to Chicago.
“I’ve told the team we’re going to keep working on our game,” Ruff said. “The preparation we’re doing now isn’t just to make the playoffs; it’s to try and get in there and win the first round. Then we’ll talk about what we’ll do after that.”
The Islanders (38-23-9) lost for the fifth time in the past six games (1-3-2) and have scored just ten goals during that stretch.
“We have to find a way to break through and execute at a higher rate,” said Islanders captain John Tavares. “We have to score some goals to win games, obviously. We have played much better defensive hockey this year. We haven’t scored as many goals as we did last year, but we have to find a way to be more consistent and generate more.”
There were several close calls for both teams through the first half of the game, but no goals. Eakin finally broke the scoreless deadlock at 13:07 of the second period, scoring from the right circle on a two-on-one rush to put the Stars ahead 1-0.
“The defenseman slid over to [Jamie] Benn. I could have feathered it through at the blue line, but he didn’t really come at me, so I had the shot,” Eakin said. “The pass depends on the stick in the lane, and his stick was guarding the passing lane, so I took the shot.”
Eaves extended the Stars lead to 2-0 at 7:41 of the third, stealing the puck at the Dallas blue line, breaking away way from the New York defense and then scoring on the rebound of his own shot.
The Stars locked it down the third period, limiting New York to seven shots on goal. The Islanders pulled goaltender Thomas Greiss with just under four minutes remaining, and Hemsky sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 2:54 left, making it a 3-0 final score.
*Saturday’s game wrapped up play against the Eastern Conference for the Stars. They finished 20-9-3 vs. the East.
*The Stars outshot the Islanders 36-27 and had a 75-65 advantage in shot attempts.
*Antoine Roussel led the Stars with 5 shots on goal and 11 shot attempts.
*Dallas blocked 26 shots. Kris Russell was tops on the Stars with four blocks.
*The Stars outhit the Islanders 30-19. Brett Ritchie led Dallas with 5 hits.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 1-1 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 27 of 48 faceoffs (56 percent).
*Radek Faksa won 9 of 15 faceoffs (60 percent). Jason Spezza won 5 of 8 (63 percent). Cody Eakin won 9 of 16 (56 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 22:16 of ice time. John Klingberg played 18:16 in his first game back after missing six games with a lower-body injury.
The Stars hit the road for three straight games, taking on Chicago, Arizona and San Jose. The Stars are 7-2-2 on the road since the All-Star break.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Kris Russell – Alex Goligoski
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – John Klingberg
Injured: Tyler Seguin (Achilles), Mattias Janmark (upper body), Jordie Benn (lower body), Jason Demers (shoulder)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
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.