Nielsen hat trick carries Islanders past Stars in 12-goal game
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Frans Nielsen has seen a lot with the New York Islanders since the 2006-07 season – and much of it has been frustrating.
But in his 455th game, Nielsen notched his first hat trick, and the Islanders outlasted the Dallas Stars in a wild 7-5 win on Saturday night.
Nielsen beat goalie Anders Lindback with a wrist shot at 9:39 of the third period to break a 4-4 tie after he and Nikolay Kulemin skated into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush.
He scored again six minutes later and then finished with an empty-net goal with less than a second remaining. He deferred to his teammates as the Islanders won for the sixth time in eight games to start the season.
”It was pretty cool,” the 30-year-old Danish center said. ”We know we’re a good team and we’re working hard. We wanted to make a statement in the beginning, and we’ve done it.”
New linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Kulemin also earned praise from Nielsen, a third-round draft pick by the Islanders in 2002. Grabovski had two assists and Kulemin scored his first goal with the Islanders.
”They are both really smart players, and it’s fun playing with them,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen’s second goal came at 15:09 off another 2-on-1 with Grabovski before Shawn Horcoff pulled Dallas to within 6-5 just 23 seconds later.
Backup goalie Chad Johnson made 26 saves for the Islanders in his second straight start. He has won all three games he has played this season.
”You won’t score six or seven goals every night so I have to make more key saves,” Johnson said. ”But a win is a win. You get the two points any way you can.”
Anders Lee, recalled by New York from AHL Bridgeport this week, opened the scoring with his first of the season at 5:11 of the first period.
After Vernon Fiddler tied it at 13:25, Kulemin scored on a short-handed breakaway at 18:42.
Lee’s goal came when he redirected Thomas Hickey’s shot past Lindback. It was the 11th goal for Lee in 26 NHL games.
Brock Nelson scored his fifth of the season at 1:12 of the second period to extend New York’s lead to 3-1.
Then Stars’ leading scorer Tyler Seguin narrowed the deficit to 3-2 with his sixth of the season at 5:25 before Jason Spezza tied it with a power-play goal at 6:50.
Antoine Roussel put Dallas ahead 4-3 at 15:50 but Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky ripped a shot over Lindback’s right shoulder 30 seconds later to tie it again.
The goal was the first of the season for the 38-year-old Visnovsky, who missed the first five games of the season with a back injury.
The Islanders have eight goals from defensemen this season. They had 23 all of last season from blue-liners.
Contributions from throughout the lineup against Dallas didn’t include Islanders’ leading scorer and captain John Tavares. Linemates Kyle Okposo and Cory Conacher assisted on Visnovsky’s goal.
”We’re doing the right things defensively and that leads to chances like the 2-on-1 we finally got,” Nielsen said. ”We compete hard, which leads to bounces going your way. Now we have to keep working hard.”
New York is 9-3-3 in its last 15 games against Dallas, which fell to 4-2-2 one night after beating the Devils in New Jersey in a shootout.
”We created more than enough chances, but we didn’t adjust well enough,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. ”We did some good things and played hard, but we were inconsistent.”
Grabovski returned after a three-game absence with concussion symptoms. He replaced Josh Bailey who went on the injured list after he broke a hand against Boston.
Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic missed his second straight game due to an upper body injury.
NOTES: The teams meet again in Dallas on March 3. … Defenseman Matt Donovan and forward Eric Boulton were scratched by the Islanders. … Dallas scratched forward Curtis McKenzie and defenseman Kevin Connauton.