Islanders' four-game winning streak snapped by Stars
DALLAS — It’s on to the next must-win game for the Islanders.
All of the final 13 games are for the Islanders’ faint playoff chances and Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Stars at American Airlines Center likely put a huge dent in whatever was left of them.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t get off to a better start,” coach Barry Trotz said, talking about Tuesday’s loss though he may as well have been speaking about the entire season. “If we had played with the desperation we did in the second half of the game, I think we’d be sitting here with at least a point.”
The Islanders (32-28-9) had a season-high four-game winning streak snapped, though they are still 11-4-1 since March 10.
Semyon Varlamov made 37 saves and Jake Oettinger only had to make 19 for the Stars (40-26-3), who moved into a wild-card spot in the Western Conference with the victory. Oettinger used his arm to rob Mathew Barzal of a potential equalizer from low in the right circle at 17:03 of the third period.
“They play a defensive style and they get numbers back and they box out,” Josh Bailey said. “You’ve got to earn it against them. We were not at our best tonight.”
The Islanders conclude this five-game road trip with back-to-back games against the Metropolitan Division-leading Hurricanes on Friday night and the Blues, who also hold a playoff position, on Saturday night.
“I think it’s fun to play those games,” said Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who kept the puck on a two-on-one rush to tie the score at 1 at 11:47 of the first period after notching his first hat trick as an Islander in Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Devils. “Everyone’s motivation before the game was really good. Even going into the third, you’re on the road, you’re down by one goal, you’re still in a good spot to come back and grab some points. We were not able to do it. It’s unfortunate.”
The Islanders remained 11 points behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot and any combination of 15 points lost by them or gained by the Capitals will eliminate the Islanders from playoff contention. The Capitals have lost four of six and the Islanders have a home-and-home series against them in the season’s final week.
“You go in with the mindset of wanting to win every game and knowing the road ahead that we have,” said Brock Nelson, who tied the score at 2 off a three-on-one rush just 31 seconds into the second period. “We’ve played well for quite a stretch now. Tonight, maybe not so. They did a good job of getting in our face right from the defensive zone so we didn’t have much possession entries.”
The Stars outshot the Islanders 18-7 in the first period and 11-3 in the second period as they were faster to pucks in the offensive zone and kept the Islanders from sustaining pressure up ice.
The Islanders didn’t get a shot in the second after Nelson’s goal until Bailey’s weak dump-in at 18:30.
Marian Studenic gave the Stars a 1-0 lead at 7:29 of the first period, putting back a long rebound of defenseman Miro Heiskanen’s shot as Trotz unsuccessfully challenged that Jamie Benn interfered with Varlamov. Tyler Seguin’s deflection of defenseman Joel Hanley’s shot gave the Stars a 2-1 lead with 46.3 seconds left in the first.
Radek Faksa’s shorthanded goal — the seventh the Islanders have allowed — at 10:29 of the second period wound up to be the winner.
“That’s a kick in the butt,” Trotz said. “We don’t need that.”