“It’s part of that next step to get over that hurdle where you deal with adversity and fight even harder. We’ve dealt with a lot in this building, and that was just another one,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “But to bounce back and come down the ice and score the goal we scored, it was something we needed in this building and something our fans needed too.”
Tuesday’s overtime win was the first time in nine tries this season that the Stars have come out on top in a game that has gone beyond regulation the AAC. Cody Eakin scored on a two-on-one rush, taking a pass from Stars captain Jamie Benn and scoring from the right circle.
“It was a relief,” Eakin said. “We haven’t had much luck in those situations. It was just our luck with one second left, but it was nice to get that extra point.”
The Islanders’ game-tying goal was a tough one for the Stars. An Anders Lee shot from the left boards hit the skate of Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn and flew past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
“I said, unbelievable…with a couple of adjectives in front of it,” Ruff said. “That was hard. We had some guys play their hearts out. I thought Jordie Benn played his heart out tonight, he might have played as well as he’s played all year. To have the puck go off his skate, I shook my head.”
“I tried to be very positive after that. I have been mad enough,” said Lehtonen. “I felt like we could get the win tonight and that was nice that we did. It was a big step for us.”
Lehtonen, who was called out by Ruff after his last start, was superb in net for the Stars, stopping 35 of 37 shots, including 17 of 18 in the first period.
“I thought he was real good,” Ruff said. “Kari was under the weather and still wanted to play so you’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He sucked it up and gave us a great first period. Then the boys responded, and he made a couple of really big saves when we needed them those last couple of periods. So a real good performance from Kari.”
The Stars improved to 28-26-10 on the season but didn’t gain any ground on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They remain nine points behind Minnesota, which holds the second wild-card spot in the West.
The Islanders lost for the fourth time in the last six games (2-2-2), but the point they picked up pushed them back into first place in the Metropolitan Division.
“I thought we deserved, even if we didn’t get the break with one point whatever seconds left, we deserved the point the way we played,” said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. “Our penalty killing was good. … We played hard. It’s a good point for us here tonight against a good team.”
The Stars went on a five-minute power play just over two minutes into the game when Islanders forward Matt Martin got a kneeing major for a hit on Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, who left the game with a lower-body injury. The Stars weren’t able to capitalize on the power play time.
The Islanders went on the power play late in the period and scored just four seconds after it expired. Just as Stars defenseman John Klingberg was coming out of the penalty box, Ryan Strome sent a pass from behind the goal line to Josh Bailey, who scored from close range to put the Islanders up 1-0 at the 15:25 mark.
The Stars had two more power play chances in the second period but couldn’t take advantage. They finally tied the game 2:24 into the third period. After Eakin won an offensive zone faceoff, Jyrki Jokipakka put a shot on net and Brett Ritchie put home the rebound to tie the game 1-1. The Stars took the lead at 7:28 of the third when a Ryan Garbutt shot hit the end boards and Vernon Fiddler put the rebound past Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak to make it a 2-1 game.
That set the stage for Lee’s late goal and then the Stars bouncing back to win on Eakin’s tally in overtime.
“It was obviously a roller coaster of emotions there at the end,” Ritchie said. “But at the end of the day we got the two points and we needed that pretty bad.”
Daley could be out weeks after knee-on-knee hit, Nemeth returns to lineup
*Stars defenseman Trevor Daley left the game after an open ice hit by Islanders forward Matt Martin, who received a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing. Daley skated off the ice on his own but headed to the locker room and did not return. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Daley is going to miss some time.
“I’d say weeks right now,” Ruff said.
Ruff didn’t like the Martin hit.
“That’s a suspension,” Ruff said. “It’s another stupid hit that makes you just shake your head. We’ve already lost our best forward [Tyler Seguin], and now we’ve lost probably our best defenseman for a period of time on a play that just wasn’t necessary.”
Islanders coach Jack Capuano had a different take.
“In my view, he’s planted and there was no intent,” Capuano said. “First of all, he’s not that kind of a player. He’s an honest guy. Hopefully, Daley’s OK moving forward. It was a tweener for me. It’s unfortunate for both guys. Hopefully, he’ll be all right.”
*Defenseman Patrik Nemeth returned to the lineup Tuesday night. It was his first game with Dallas since Oct. 18, when he suffered an arm laceration that required surgery. The Stars dressed seven defensemen to ease into Nemeth the game, but things changed when Daley was injured. Nemeth played 12:08, had two hits and one blocked shot.
“I thought his game was okay,” Ruff said. “I think he’s got a ways to go in my eyes, but I thought if I dress seven I can get him some ice time and if things are going well we can get him some more. For a first game back, after what he’s dealt with, maybe better than okay. He’s worked hard to get to this point so give him credit for that.”
With Stars dressing seven defensemen, forward Colton Sceviour ended up being the healthy scratch.
*The Stars are now 4-10 in games that have gone beyond regulation this season. They are 2-7 in four-on-four overtime and 2-3 in shootouts.
*The Islanders outshot the Stars 37-35.
*Brett Ritchie led the Stars with six shots on goal.
*The Stars were 0-5 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 39 of 69 faceoffs (57 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 15 of 23 draws (65 percent). Shawn Horcoff won 6 of 10 (60 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 16 (56 percent). Jason Spezza won 7 of 15 (50 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 26:50 of ice time. John Klingberg was next with 25:53.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Ryan Garbutt
(Various) – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley/Patrik Nemeth
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: Colton Sceviour
Injured: Tyler Seguin (knee), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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.