Fast starts have been as elusive this season for the New York Islanders as they’ve been commonplace for the Dallas Stars.
The Islanders will be looking to snap that trend — and the Stars seeking to extend it — Tuesday night, when New York hosts Dallas in the opener of a season-long five-game homestand in Elmont, N.Y.
The Islanders have been off since Friday, when they concluded a four-game West Coast trek with a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. The Stars ended a two-game losing streak Sunday, when they beat the Florida Panthers 5-1.
The early-game struggles of the Islanders — who have been outscored 31-24 in the first period this season — were magnified throughout their road trip. New York gave up the first goal in all four games and was outscored 7-2 in the first 20 minutes by the Flames, Seattle Kraken, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers.
While the Islanders bounced back against the Canucks and earned a 6-2 win on Jan. 3, they never recovered against the Oilers, who scored the first two goals in a 4-2 victory on Thursday, or the Flames, who scored the first three goals in a 4-1 win on Friday.
The back-to-back losses dropped New York (46 points) into a tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the last wild-card spot in the East, and Pittsburgh has two games in hand. The Islanders have lost 11 of 18 (7-9-2) since opening 15-8-0.
“We’ve clearly talked about (the slow starts) as a group, gone over video and discussed it, identified the areas that we need to be better in,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said after practice Monday. “And so when you do that, that’s how you fix it. And that’s the goal.”
No club in the NHL this season has scored the first goal as often as Dallas, which has lit the lamp first 25 times this season.
The Stars never led during their two-game slide against Anaheim and Los Angeles, but they ended that trend by taking the lead on Jason Robertson’s goal with 3:15 left in the first Sunday against Florida.
“We want to get the first goal in every game, especially when we are on our heels,” Robertson said. “We slowed down their momentum and tried to take the game over in the second and third period.”
The wire-to-wire win over the Panthers closed out an impressive first half for the Stars, who lead the Central Division by one point over the Winnipeg Jets and are two points behind the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference.
The victory also ensured the Stars wouldn’t suffer their first three-game losing streak of the season. Dallas has lost two straight five times this year and has fallen in regulation in back-to-back games just three times.
“You don’t want to lose two in a row and we did, so we knew this game was important for us,” Stars defenseman Ryan Suter said.
Dallas forward Roope Hintz did not accompany the team on its two-game road trip to New York due to an upper-body injury, coach Peter DeBoer announced Tuesday.
Hintz will sit out the game against the Islanders and Thursday’s contest versus the Rangers. He sustained the injury in the first period of the Stars’ win over the Panthers.
“I’m not concerned about it being long-term but (he’s) not with us,” DeBoer said.
–Field Level Media