Defense optional: Islanders take thriller against Stars

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The book on the Dallas Stars and New York Islanders is that both teams might be stuck “outscoring their problems.” That certainly was the case tonight, as it’s somewhat remarkable that Anders Lindback and Chad Johnson weren’t among the goalies who were pulled early in Saturday’s games as the Isles won 7-5.*

Just as remarkable: the Islanders managed to outgun the Stars even though John Tavares finished the night without a goal or an assist.

Whether Nielsen’s hat trick stands or he just scored two goals, it was still a strong night for the Isles’ supporting cast. Nikolay Kulemin, Lubomir Visnovsky and Brock Nelson enjoyed matching one-goal, one-assist nights. Mikhail Grabovski returned from his concussion issues to collect two assists.

The Islanders still have plenty of work to do in their end, mind you. While their league-best 32 goals and nice 6-2-0 record look great, they’ve allowed 27 goals. Conventional wisdom is that teams need to play skin-tight defense to thrive in the playoffs, so that’s a concern for this upstart bunch.

Of course, the same can be said for the Stars, particularly if Kari Lehtonen can’t stay in net. Lindback has now allowed nine goals in two starts, doing little to quiet concerns that he won’t improve upon lousy numbers from his run with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Another impressive night by the Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Tyler Seguin combo nearly lifted them to back-to-back victories, yet that trio also combined for a -10 rating.

This post’s main image is actually from a different Stars – Islanders game, yet it seems to tell the story of Saturday’s contest anyway (minus a Josh Bailey here or there).

All of that pessimism aside, the Stars and Islanders put on the kind of show that had people dreaming of a high-scoring 2015 Stanley Cup Final tonight. Both teams have a lot of work to do to even be considered legitimate contenders, yet each franchise boasts the offensive firepower to at least make people sweat.

*- There’s still a chance that Frans Nielsen’s hat trick goal didn’t beat the clock, as he fired the puck into an empty net in the dying moments.