There won't be many more nights when the Islanders can win while allowing five goals, giving up a two-goal lead and getting almost nothing from John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.
But they will take this one. A wild 7-5 victory over the Stars Saturday night at the Coliseum, powered by Frans Nielsen's third-period hat trick, showed that the Isles have a stronger backbone than they did last season. They pulled themselves together after coughing up a 3-1 lead in the second period.
"No, we can't count on scoring this many goals every night," Nielsen said. "We've got to be a little stronger all the way through. But I liked the way we stayed with it, no one got frustrated and we took advantage when they got a little too aggressive."
Dallas came in on a 4-0-1 streak led by a high-powered top line of Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn. Seguin and Spezza scored second-period goals to erase the Islanders' two-goal lead and Antoine Roussel swept a rebound past Chad Johnson to drop the Isles behind for half a minute. But Lubomir Visnovsky tied the score at 4-4 heading to the third.
The Stars still got plenty of offensive-zone time in that third period, especially against Tavares' line, but the newly formed line of Nielsen, Nikolay Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski was able to steer the game back the Islanders' way.
Grabovski made a neat little play to control the puck near his own blue line, then spun a backhand out to Kulemin for a two-on-one. Kulemin, who scored a shorthanded goal in the first period, fed Nielsen, and his wrist shot beat Anders Lindback to get the Islanders back on top, 5-4, with 10:21 to play.
Jack Capuano deployed Nielsen's line as often as possible against Seguin's and they sprung into action on offense when needed.
"I don't think we're just a checking line," said Kulemin, who has four points in his last two games. "We got three great players there. We've had a lot of scoring chances. We play defense but we can score, too."
When Kulemin sent Grabovski and Nielsen off on another two-on-one, Nielsen snuck a wrist shot inside the post for a two-goal lead with 4:51 to go.
It still wasn't done. When Johnny Boychuk's clearing attempt hit a glass support and deflected into the slot, Shawn Horcoff beat Johnson 23 seconds later to make it 6-5.
But the Islanders strengthened up in their own end during the final four minutes and Nielsen completed his first career hat trick into an empty net with less than a second to go.
The Isles' 6-2-0 record is their best start in 13 seasons, but the 27 goals they've allowed puts them in the bottom third of the league in team defense.
"I'll take the Ws," Capuano said. "We had games last season where we outplayed and outchanced good teams and lost. This was a good team we played and I'm pleased with some of the things we did.''