Frans Nielsen's Hat Trick Leads Isles To 7-5 Win Over Dallas

The New York Islanders hosted the visiting Dallas Stars tonight at Nassau Coliseum, hoping to take advantage of a team that played on the road last night. They may not be able to say that they did just that, but Frans Nielsen's hat trick helped propel the Islanders to a 7-5 win on home ice.

The first period started with a quick tempo pace from both teams, as they both got plenty of chances early in the game. Chad Johnson was forced to make a sprawling save on a breakaway, and Anders Lindback had plenty of traffic in front for the first twenty.

The traffic in his crease would eventually lead to the first goal by the Isles. Brock Nelson fed the puck to Calvin de Haan at the far side of the Stars’ blue line before letting go of a wrist-shot that was redirected behind Lindback by Anders Lee for his first goal of the year.

The Islanders would then end up giving up the lead due to a fluky play by Johnson. The Isles net-minder stopped the initial shot from Patrick Eaves and thought he had the puck wrapped up in his glove. However, the puck trickled through his arm and sat behind him in the crease, allowing a streaking Vernon Fiddler to reach the loose puck and put it home for a 1-1 tie.

The home team’s PK unit would be called upon for back-to-back disadvantages with Brian Strait first going to the box for hooking, followed by a Hickey interference minor immediately after the first penalty.

Nikolay Kulemin would then score an unassisted shorthanded goal by pick-pocketing the Stars’ defense at their blue line. He skated in on a mini-breakaway and released a wicked wrist-shot over the glove of Lindback. The Isles killed off the remainder of the penalty and headed to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead.

The second period saw the Islanders extend their lead by one just 1:25 into the period when Brock Nelson earned his second point of then night. Ryan Strome carried the puck in after accepting a pass from Calvin de Haan in the neutral zone and slowed down with it as he crossed the Stars’ blue line.

Strome then sent a shot on net that was stopped by Lindback, but left sitting untouched in front. Fortunately for the Isles, Nelson was right there on the door step to bury the rebound and give his team a 3-1 lead.

However, two quick goals by the Stars later in the period would tie the game after the Islanders failed to convert with the man-advantage.

A strong kill by the visitors led to a momentum change in the middle frame with Tyler Seguin scoring a beautiful goal on Johnson. Seguin took a snap shot just outside of the face-off dot to the left of the Isles’ goaltender that beat him just under the cross bar. Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn were credited with the assists.

Just 1:25 later, Spezza would add another tally to the score column for Dallas. With Jamie Benn screening Johnson in front, Spezza let go of a laser of a shot that Johnson never saw, beating him over his shoulder and tying the game up at three. Alex Goligoski and Seguin received the assists.

Antoine Roussel would then give the Stars a 4-3 lead at the 15:50 mark of the middle frame. Some sloppy defense led to a rebound coming to Roussel to the left of Johnson, allowing him to give his team the go-ahead goal. Goligoski earned his second assist of the night with Ryan Garbutt pocketing the other.

But that would change 1:30 later due to the play of the top line. Corey Conacher chipped the puck up ahead to Kyle Okposo, who then carried the puck into the offensive zone. He dished the puck to Visnovsky as he skated over the Stars’ blue line. He set himself up into scoring position and let go of a blast that beat Lindback blocker-side, tying the game up at four goals apiece.

The period ended with Matt Martin taking a hooking penalty, forcing the Islanders to start the third period short-handed, but the Isles began the final twenty minutes with a successful kill.

Frans Nielsen would end the tie almost halfway through the period. The Stars were applying strong pressure to the Isles’ defense, but Mikhail Grabovski worked the puck free along the boards to Kulemin who led a two-on-one charge with Nielsen into the Stars’ zone. Kulemin sent the puck over to Nielsen who sniped a wrister over the glove of Lindback to give the Isles a 5-4 lead.

Fans at the Coliseum must have thought that they were experiencing Deja-vu, because Nielsen converted on another two-on-one rush with 4:51 left in the game. This time, Nielsen beat Lindback just off the inside post after receiving a pass from Grabovski. Visnovsky had the secondary helper.

But the Stars responded almost immediately, pocketing a quick one from Shawn Horcoff to make it 6-5 just twenty-two seconds later.

With the Stars’ net empty, the visitors would apply some more pressure towards the Islanders’ defense, hoping to force overtime for the second night in a row on their road trip. Nielsen would prevent any extra time from being necessary, scoring a hat trick in as dramatic a fashion as possible.

Corralling the puck in the neutral zone, Nielsen settled the puck and snapped it into the empty net. Hats flew onto the ice, but the final buzzer had sounded just as the puck crossed the goal line. Video review would indicate that the puck crossed the goal line with just 0.1 seconds left on the clock to complete his first NHL hat trick of his career.

Jack Capuano was clear in his press-conference that he’ll “take the W” but was not happy with the fact that his team let up five goals. With that said, it was two of the most active offenses playing against each other, which resulted in a wide open game with plenty of goals.

A major positive to take away from this game is that there were seven goals scored with various Islanders making their way onto the score sheet, and not one of them involved John Tavares. This game was a clear cut example of the depth that is currently on this team.

The Isles will look to reduce the amount of goals they surrender and continue their two-game winning streak when they face the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

-Rob McGowan

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