The Islanders aren’t sad to see the Stars crossed off their 2017-18 schedule. Doug Weight didn’t feel Wednesday’s 5-2 loss at Barclays Center was as lopsided as it felt, but this was still the second time in a little over a month that Dallas handed it to his Islanders.
“I guarantee we had 25 good opportunities — to me it’s a winnable game,” Weight said after his team fell behind 5-0 early in the third period, the final result only softened by two Anders Lee goals. “Credit to them, they got the lead, they capitalized, but the difference (between this loss and Monday’s 3-1 win over the Capitals) is we probably had twice as many scoring chances.”
The difference, too, was likely in goal. Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves for the Stars and the Islanders hit three posts, though those all came after the Stars had hung four goals to chase Jaroslav Halak at the 9:21 mark of the second period.
Halak was making his fourth straight start and was coming off his best showing of the season in beating Washington. But Alex Radulov’s wrist shot off the rush trickled through Halak’s pads at 15:46 of the first to put the Isles down 2-0, a must-save that set the tone for the game.
“It’s frustrating,” Weight said. “We’re all frustrated, I’m sure he is, too. He wants to get on a roll.”
The Islanders will roll into Columbus for a quick turnaround on Thursday, similar to when the Isles and Stars first met on Nov. 10 in Dallas. Halak wasn’t great that night either but it was hard to single him out in that 5-0 loss, with the Isles mustering just 14 shots on goal.
This Islander team still hasn’t lost consecutive games in regulation this season but worrisome signs are cropping up. They are 2-4-1 in their last seven and 1-2-0 in their last three at Barclays Center after starting the season 8-0-2 on home ice.
And one of the main themes during that stretch has been sluggishness at the starts of games. Tyler Pitlick scored the first of his two goals at 7:37 of the first, starting a four-minute stretch in which Dallas out-attempted the Isles 11-0. The Islanders pushed back and had some pressure going before Radulov’s goal, but falling behind early had erased the margin for error.
“We just seemed like we weren’t getting to pucks quick enough,” said John Tavares, who assisted on both of Lee’s goals. “The first half of the game we were a step slow.”
Remi Elie scored on a delayed penalty at 1:01 of the second and Jamie Benn whipped one by Halak at 9:21 to bring on Thomas Greiss, Thursday’s likely starter. By the time Pitlick tipped home John Klingberg’s shot 21 seconds into the third, many of the 10,316 in Brooklyn were already out the door.
Worrisome, too, is the lack of production from the third line. Josh Ho-Sang has no points in five games, Anthony Beauvillier none in six. “It’s becoming an issue,” Weight said.
But there were plenty of issues to mull over from Wednesday and the prior few games. The Islanders have been able to outscore their mistakes most of this season but they certainly were not tight enough to avoid falling behind and staying there, despite ringing iron a few times.