Islanders finish road trip with win over Dallas
DALLAS — All Barry Trotz asked of his team before heading into the NHL’s Christmas break was a focused, 60-minute effort. The Islanders’ coach knew it would be easy to look ahead, especially after an eight-day, four-game road trip.
“I just asked the guys, ‘Give me three hours of your best stuff and let’s call it a day,’ ” Trotz said.
The Islanders were rewarded for a solid effort with a 3-1 win over the Stars on Sunday night at American Airlines Center as they bounced back from Thursday night’s sloppy 4-2 loss at Vegas. They finished the road trip 3-1-0, allowing one goal in each of their victories.
“When you have two, three days in between games when you’re on the road, it seems like forever,” Trotz said. “This is a tough game for every player. Everybody is looking forward to the break. I am, too. Just give me everything you’ve got for 60 minutes.”
“We knew the importance of this game,” said captain Anders Lee, who scored a power-play goal by knocking in the rebound of Nick Leddy’s blue-line shot off the left post to make it 2-1 at 8:50 of the third period. “It was one we didn’t want to overlook and one that, if we won, it would turn into a really good road trip.”
Robin Lehner made 19 saves for the Islanders (18-13-4) and Anton Khudobin stopped 25 shots for the Stars (18-16-3). Lehner has allowed only one goal in four of his last five starts, dating to a 2-1 shootout loss at Boston on Nov. 29.
“It definitely feels like it’s been a little bit of a turning point,” said Lehner, who missed time in November because of back spasms and a game earlier this month because of an unspecified tweak. “Ever since the game in Boston, I’ve been building a little bit of confidence. I think we played a heck of a hockey game. We really shut down their good players.”
The Stars beat the Islanders, 6-2, on Nov. 18 at Barclays Center. Esa Lindell and Alexander Radulov each had two goals, and the top line of Tyler Seguin, Radulov and Jamie Benn totaled three goals and six assists. None of those players had a point in Sunday’s rematch.
“We were back to our old style,” defenseman Ryan Pulock said. “In Vegas, we didn’t do a good job defensively. Tonight, we were back to clogging up the middle and not giving them many good scoring chances.”
The trick will be to carry that over after the three-day break. The Islanders will reconvene for practice on Thursday and face the Senators on Friday night at Barclays Center.
Tyler Pitlick scored the lone Stars goal at 6:20 of the second period, skating between Josh Ho-Sang and Valtteri Filppula in the left circle to the crease and beating Lehner under his glove.
But the Isles tied it at 1 at 14:10 of the second period as Casey Cizikas, skating away from the crease, backhanded a shot from below the left circle that bounced off the top of the net, off Khudobin’s back and across the line with Lee swatting at the puck from behind the crease. A review confirmed the goal, Cizikas’ ninth of the season, matching his career high.
Leo Komarov capped the scoring with an empty-netter at 19:00 of the third period.
The Islanders lost Cal Clutterbuck at 13:17 of the first period in an awkward collision with the Stars’ Martin Hanzal, who also exited the game. Clutterbuck, who had trouble putting weight on his left skate, was helped to the bench. Trotz indicated it was “nothing major” and likely a strain.