The Dallas Stars played what was arguably their best effort of the season, resulting in a close 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Monday night. But even with such a short rest period, the Stars (18-13-1) brought the same heat to Brooklyn tonight, sweeping the Islanders (17-11-3) in a fiery 5-2 game and thus making it Kari Lehtonen’s 300th NHL career win.
With Hanzel back in the lineup, Hitchcock rolling out the Benn-Faksa-Pitlick line, and Lehtonen in the crease, the Stars played with confidence and aggression from the get-go. Center forward Tyler Pitlick set the tone scoring his fourth goal of the season and putting the first point on the board just 7:37 into the first period. We saw consistent forechecking on the Stars end leading up to the first tally, which actually served to be one of the key components to tonight’s win. Radulov scored the second goal of the night with a beautiful wrist shot, assisted by Spezza and Janmark in the remaining five minutes of regulation.
Dallas took advantage of their initial momentum early on in the second frame with left winger Remi Elie cashing in on a rebound given up by New York goaltender Halak only one minute into the period. Now with the score sitting at 3-0, the Islanders seemed like they could barely keep up with the insane amount of activity and militance in their zone. The Stars team as a whole were giving the word “hustle” a whole new meaning as they took risks and exploited every opportunity presented to them. The captain tallied Dallas’ fourth goal of the game halfway through the second period, forcing the Islanders to make an immediate goalie change. Halak took the bench, but even with Greiss in the crease, the Stars still didn’t give up time or space.
Though they had a strong start to the third period with Pitlick scoring his second goal of the night only 21 seconds after the clock started, the Islanders answered back almost instantaneously putting the score at 5-1. But even with the Stars going soft for the remainder of the third period, allowing one more goal in the last few minutes of regulation to make it 5-2, it was far too late for New York to catch up. Dallas tucked their second road victory in a row for this week under their belt with a final score of 5-2, SOG 34-27, Islanders.
And while we can all agree that a 5-2 final score is eye-catching, the big story here is Kari Lehtonen’s performance and 300th NHL career win milestone! With this being his official 624th game, he stood taller and played stronger than ever in the blue paint with numerous reflections and stops. The Stars dictated this game from start to finish. While the guys battled in the corners, Kari battle in the crease. And even though his 300th victory milestone might have been in the back of his head the whole game, absolutely nothing derailed him tonight.
Pitlick was definitely another rock star of this game who knew how to deliver. With this being his second two-goal game of the season since October, it’s safe to say he is a fabulous addition to the team. He’s strong on his stick, skates well, he’s constantly moving, and is most assuredly seeing the fruits of his hard work on the ice. With five goals in 30 games, he could possibly be on track to shatter career highs. What a diamond in the rough, that Pitlick!
“We pressured the puck hard on the forecheck and played strong territorial start. We played on our toes and got pucks turned over,” Hitchcock stated in the post-game interview. “The Islanders’ skill level is incredible. Their speed and puck possession is incredible but we didn’t give it to them in the first 2 periods. That’s how we have to play to win.”
We couldn’t have said it any better, Hitch! Our performance tonight was stellar and the synergy of each line was unmatchable. The Stars will hit the road again as they face the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers back to back Friday and Saturday. There is no doubt that this is just the beginning of our Victory Green’s road to ultimate victory!
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