Frans Nielsen netted his first NHL hat trick to lead the New York Islanders past the visiting Dallas Stars 7-5 at the Nassau Coliseum Saturday night. The win improved the Islanders record to 6-2-0 on the young season.
All three of Nielsen’s goals came in the third period including an empty net tally that came with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to seal the victory.
As usual, Nielsen was quiet and low key after his accomplishment. “It felt pretty good,” Nielsen admitted. “I couldn’t really celebrate out there because I didn’t really know if it [the third goal] counted…I didn’t find out until I got off the ice, but it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
This game was a wide-open shootout with both teams taking turns controlling the tempo and getting the better of the chances.
After Anders Lee and Vernon Fiddler traded goals in the first period, Nikolay Kulemin scored a short-handed goal just 1:18 before the first intermission to put the Isles ahead 2-1.
The Islanders new “Kid Line” of Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee struck just 1:25 into the third period when Nelson beat Dallas’ Anders Lindback for his fifth goal of the season to extend the Islanders lead to 3-1.
Nelson likes the chemistry he has with his new linemates. “It’s fun playing with Anders and Stromey, they’re both good guys off the ice and we’ve become pretty good friends,” Nelson said after the game. “When we’re able to play together out there, we’ve built up some chemistry and we know how one another plays. Tonight we were able to move our feet and create open ice and keep it simple. We were able to do that and we clicked a couple of times. Hopefully we can continue to build on that and continue to chip in.”
The Stars answered back with the next three goals to take a 4-3 with 4:10 left in the middle period. Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Antione Roussel each scored with Spezza’s blast coming on the power play.
But defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky scored his first goal of the season on a blast from the point just 30 seconds later and the game was tied again at 4-4 after 40 minutes.
Nielsen took over in the third. His first goal came off a 2-on-1 as he took a pass from Kulemin and beat Lindback to make it 5-4 New York. Another Nielsen goal off an odd-man rush seemed to clinch the game with 4:51 left, but Shawn Horcoff answered for Dallas just 23 seconds later to make it a 6-5 game with 4:28 remaining in regulation.
The Stars had their chances late, but Isles starter Chad Johnson came up with some timely saves. The empty-netter by Nielsen with 0.1 seconds completed the hat trick and clinched the victory for the Islanders.
Head coach Jack Capuano was happy with the win and senses a real difference in this year’s team. “We outplayed teams last year and we out-chanced teams last year, but we lost the games. I give our team credit. This is one of the best teams we have faced.,.I’m pleased with the effort from our guys.”
It is clear this young team is learning how to win games they would have lost a year or two ago. Their confidence is growing with each victory. “We know we’re a good team,” Nielsen said. “We wanted to make a statement here in the beginning [of the season] and I think we’ve done it so far. We just have to realize what gets us success and don’t get too confident. We have to keep working.”
The Islanders return to action Tuesday night when the host the Winnipeg Jets at the Nassau Coliseum.
Attendance was 15,208.
The Islanders were without Travis Hamonic, who remains out with an injury. Eric Boulton and Matt Donovan were healthy scratches for the Islanders.
The Canadian national anthem was sung before the game to show solidarity with Canada after last week’s terrorist attacks.
Thomas Hickey and Brock Nelson were each a plus-three for the Islanders. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza were each a minus-four for Dallas. Spezza had a goal and an assist in the game.