The Islanders were able to sneak a point out of Dallas in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Stars. By sneak, they needed a miraculous Anders Lee goal with 1.1 seconds left in regulation to earn a point moving them back ahead of the Rangers by a point into first place. Taking advantage of a Stars turnover, Lee was able to snap one home beating Kari Lehtonen to force overtime.
They came close to winning it but hit the post. Less than a minute later, a turnover at the Stars blueline by Ryan Strome led directly to a two-on-one with Cody Eakin taking a perfect Jamie Benn cross-ice feed for an easy finish into an open side past Jaroslav Halak at 2:18 of OT. Halak finished with 32 saves in a losing effort.
There wasn’t much offense the first two periods. The Islanders held a 1-0 lead thanks to some great teamwork on Josh Bailey’s 13th at 15:25 of the first. Strome started a nice passing play down low feeding Brock Nelson, who quickly dished for an open Bailey in front for a sweet finish. Despite Matt Martin getting tossed for a kneeing major in the early going on Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley, the Isles killed it off and outshot the Stars 18-9 and were up one.
Despite turning up the heat outshooting the Islanders 13-9 in the second, the Stars were unable to beat Halak through 40 minutes. However, they were finally able to solve him twice within a 5:04 span during the third. Both goals came due to outworking the Islanders defense in front. Each was a rebound. Brett Ritchie beat Calvin de Haan to a Jyrki Jokipakaa rebound in front to tie it at 2:24. On an extended forecheck, the Stars took the lead when Vernon Fiddler steered home another rebound of a Ryan Garbutt shot making it 2-1 with 12:32 left in regulation.
Following slashing minors from Strome and Ritchie 40 seconds apart, coach Jack Capuano pulled Halak for an extra attacker. It looked like the Stars would hold on. But a quick rush up ice by Travis Hamonic with 11.5 seconds to spare resulted in a bizarre finish. On a broken play, a Star threw the puck right to Lee who quickly fired it off Jordie Benn’s skate past Lehtonen giving the Islanders the tying goal at 19:58. Lee’s unassisted tally was his 21st. That tied him for second with Filip Forsberg among rookies in goals. Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman is the leader with 23.
There are quite a few talented freshmen. A couple who were on display had an impact. After Lee’s tying marker, Dallas rookie defenseman John Klingberg forced Strome into a turnover which led to the game winner. He assisted on Eakin’s OT winner. Klingberg has 34 points tying 2014 first overall pick Aaron Ekblad for most points by a rookie defenseman. In fact, there’s a three-way tie between Lee, Ekblad and Klingman for fifth in rookie scoring. Rangers freshman Kevin Hayes is eighth with 29 points. While Forsberg remains the front runner pacing all rookies with 52 points, it’s a talented class also featuring Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Stone, Jonathan Drouin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and unheralded goalie Michael Hutchinson.
Notes: With a point, the Islanders are up to 85 with 17 games left. They’re 41-21-3 and lead the Rangers by a point. The Blueshirts make up one of three games at hand tonight at Detroit. The Isles have 34 regulation and overtime wins (ROW) compared to the Rangers’ 36 which is the first tiebreaker. The Pens are third with 81 points and 33 ROW. By virtue of their 5-3 win highlighted by emerging Hart candidate Alexander Ovechkin’s pair moving him up to a league best 43 goals, the Capitals are up to 80 with 32 ROW. Five total points separate first from fourth. … Neither deadline pickup Tyler Kennedy nor Michal Neuvirth played. … The Isles return to action tomorrow when they visit Nashville, who have dropped a season high four straight after falling to the Devils 3-1.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Kari Lehtonen, DAL (35 saves)
2nd Star-Brock Nelson, NYI (tying goal with 1.1 seconds left in regulation-21st, 5 SOG in 17:52)
1st Star-Cody Eakin, DAL (OT winner-15th, assist, 3 SOG, +2 in 18:21)