Islanders waste good start in ugly loss to Stars

DALLAS — The Islanders got the start they needed, but not the finish.

Just two days after the first 20 minutes killed them against the Predators, the Islanders couldn’t withstand a third-period push from the Stars, and lost 5-2 at American Airlines Center on Saturday night.

It’s the first time since Oct. 22-23 that the Islanders have lost consecutive games, and with another road game against the Maple Leafs coming up Monday, there’s some urgency to right the ship before they return home.

After the third period opened with the score tied at 2-2, Jamie Benn netted the go-ahead goal for the Stars at 8:17, backhanding a feed from Mason Marchment past Semyon Varlamov. Benn, who also assisted on the first two Dallas goals, keyed a top line that gave the Islanders fits all night.

Just as in Nashville on Thursday, there was no comeback. The closest the Islanders got after Benn’s goal was forcing a Ryan Suter clearance off the line on Kyle Palmieri’s shot, keeping a 3-2 lead intact at 15:36. Barely a minute later, Jason Robertson extended the Stars’ lead to 4-2 with a goal at 16:27 of the third. An empty-net goal from Jani Hakanpaa closed out the scoring.

Mason Marchment takes down Anders Lee during the Islanders’ 5-2 loss to the Stars.
USA TODAY Sports

The Islanders were left to rue a 1-for-5 mark on power plays and their failure to take full control of the game during a second period in which they had four chances at five-on-four.

During that second period, there was one big positive: Mathew Barzal broke his season-long drought with his first two goals of the season. He defelected Alexander Romanov’s shot past Jake Oettinger at 1:30 and sniped home a power-play goal from the slot at 14:30.

In between, though, Barzal was primarily responsible for Radek Faksa’s goal at 6:57 of the second period. He let Benn skate through him to help set up the goal, which tied the score at 1-1. And, just 40 seconds after Barzal gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead with his second tally, Marchment tied it up on a one-timer from the slot, courtesy of Benn.

Jake Oettinger makes a save on Brock Nelson during the Islanders' loss.
Jake Oettinger makes a save on Brock Nelson during the Islanders’ loss.
USA TODAY Sports

After the period did them in against the Predators, the Islanders did what was needed in the opening 20 minutes Saturday. Though they went to the first intermission scoreless, the Islanders had the first six shots of the game before their momentum was halted on a Casey Cizikas hooking penalty. It was a mostly even match through the first period, though Varlamov withstood a number of tests, including a Ty Dellandrea shot from the crease that he deflected away.

It wasn’t a perfect start, but it was good enough until the prevailing issues came later.

Going into the third period tied despite having four power plays in the second period felt like a wasted opportunity for the Islanders in the moment. As it turned out, it was.

The two-game skid is the first real adversity the Islanders have faced in nearly a month, but with the red-hot Devils, Hurricanes and Rangers in the Metropolitan Division, even a strong month has given them only minimal leeway.

Barzal breaking his scoring drought (he already was averaging an assist per game) is no small deal, and the center grinned ear-to-ear, a weight visibly off his shoulders, after his first goal. But that feels like a bit of a consolation prize on a night in which the Islanders left victory on the table.

They can still salvage a .500 record on the four-game road trip with a win at Toronto. That would, in truth, be just fine on a four-game road trip including games against top-tier teams the Stars and Maple Leafs. And there is added import in avoiding a three-game losing streak.