Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders celebrates his second...

Brock Nelson of the New York Islanders celebrates his second goal against the Dallas Stars at UBS Arena on March 19, 2022. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The first chant came not four minutes into the game: "Var-ly! Var-ly!"

There was more where that came from, perhaps a half-dozen times on Saturday in which Islanders fans at UBS Arena paid tribute to Semyon Varlamov.

Sure, it mostly was about the goaltender’s sharp performance in a 4-2 victory over the Stars, which featured a hat trick by Brock Nelson and extended the Islanders’ too-little-too-late point streak to six games (5-0-1).

But there was a subplot. The veteran goalie could be the Islanders’ most valuable trade chip with the deadline for such deals coming Monday, so this might well have been his final start in Islanders blue.

If so, he not only did himself proud, making 37 saves, but he gave Lou Lamoriello more leverage as the general manager fields calls from playoff contenders in need of help in goal down the stretch.

With Ilya Sorokin having established himself as the No. 1 goaltender, Varlamov and his 2022-23 salary cap hit of $5 million might be expendable and bring a return that fills other Islanders needs.

Varlamov was not made available to reporters after the game and his teammates and coach were in no mood to discuss trade speculation publicly.

But the postgame hugs teammates gave him on the ice seemed firmer and more emotional than normal for a regular-season game in the dog days of mid-March.

"Varly’s given us plenty of chances to win, so it’s nice to get him one," Nelson said. "I think he gives us a chance every night, so it feels good to get that win for him.

Varlamov, 33, has had an uneven season, beginning with missing training camp because of an injury that lingered from last year’s playoffs. He also missed some time because of COVID-19.

But on Saturday he showed what he still can do, most notably making a key save on Michael Raffl from right in front of the goal in the final seconds of the first period to keep the game scoreless.

"It was a huge save and definitely a turning point for us," Adam Pelech said.

Varlamov also made several big stops late in the third period as the Stars sought to battle back from a 3-1 deficit.

"I’m happy for Varly, because he’s been chasing it all year because of the slow start, no training camp and all that," coach Barry Trotz said. "He looks happy and content, and ready to go every night."

Ryan Pulock’s long blast from the right point made it 1-0 early in the second period. It was the 11th time in the past 14 games the Islanders scored first; they are 21-6-5 this season when they do so.

Dallas (33-24-3) later tied it on a goal by Denis Gurianov. So it was 1-1 after two periods.

Then Nelson scored a rare one-period hat trick. His power play goal at 4:17 hit goalie Jake Oettinger, then bounced over him and into the goal. He scored again at 5:55 off a perfect feed from Anthony Beauvillier.

After Jacob Peterson got the Stars within one at 11:39, Nelson’s empty-netter gave him his fourth career hat trick and his career-high 27th goal this season.

The Islanders (26-24-9) are 19 points out of a playoff spot, which is why they figure to be sellers at the deadline. But at least now they are showing what they can do when healthy and in sync.

"It feels like we’re doing the right things again and playing the right way," Beauvillier said, "Everyone’s sticking together, and it’s fun."

Said Pulock, "I think we’re a lot better than maybe our record shows."

But the record is what it is, and it figures to trigger moves by Lamoriello. Varalmov could be among them.

More Islanders

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months