The Dallas Stars are within one regulation or overtime win (or one Minnesota Wild regulation loss) of qualifying for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs after putting together a solid full-team effort to defeat the New York Islanders 3-0 at the American Airlines Center to cap a five-game homestand.
The first period was a relatively quiet affair, save an impressive first power play attempt from the Stars and a short breakaway attempt for Antoine Roussel that was fought off by Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. The shots ended up 11-10 for the Stars in the frame, which was pretty indicative of an evenly-played first period.
The Islanders finally got a power play attempt in the second, but the Stars were the only team to get a shot off in the special teams situation. The period continued with exchanges of almost chances, from a high (possibly too high) tip from Anders Lee that got behind Kari Lehtonen but rolled along the goal line and out at the other post to great chances for Roussel and Ales Hemsky at the other end.
Cody Eakin finally broke the scoreless tie with a little less than seven minutes to go in the period as Patrick Sharp spring him and Jamie Benn on a 2-on-1. With the defenseman paying a lot of respect to the potential pass to Benn, Eakin waited out Greiss and picked the corner.
The teams continued to trade chances until Patrick Eaves stripped the puck at the Dallas blue line with eight minutes left in the third period and sent himself in on a breakaway. His first shot attempt was stopped by Greiss, but Eaves had pulled up in anticipation of the rebound and was able to roof it to give the Stars a two-goal lead.
New York pulled their goalie with four minutes to go, and the Islanders managed a run of sustained play in the Dallas zone, but Hemsky was the recipient of some good defensive work from his like and hit the empty net with three minutes remaining in the game.
Lehtonen was forced to make just seven saves in the third period to preserve the shut out, and it's the first time the Stars franchise has shut out the Islanders since 1992.
The victory gave the Stars seven points in a potentially brutal five-game homestand against some a series of playoff-bound opponents. Sure, the loss to Los Angeles was a dud and the loss to Tyler Seguin to an Achilles Injury really stings, but you can't ask for much more than that.