One thing remained the same after the 17-day Olympic break. The Dallas Stars are still the NHL's best road team.
Dallas won its league-leading 20th road victory Wednesday night, scoring two first-period goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
"Everybody who played in the semifinals and finals (of the Olympics) got in today," said Islanders forward Robert Reichel, who won a gold medal with the Czech Republic. "I tried to go short and hard (shifts). It was tough."
Dallas capitalized on an early penalty to Reichel for a 1-0 lead as Pat Verbeek scored his 19th goal 53 seconds into the game. Jere Lehtinen scored his 20th goal at 9:08 for a 2-0 lead.
"We played well for the first 10-15 minutes," Stars forward Mike Modano said. "Getting those early goals helped us get into our game plan."
New York, trying to take advantage of a stretch of seven out of eight games at home, couldn't get untracked against Ed Belfour, who stopped 21 shots.
"We were playing a little too much 1-on-1 hockey," New York coach Rick Bowness said. "Still, that is a top team in this league. They have excellent lines, great goaltending, a solid defense, and dynamite special teams."
Juha Lind put Dallas up 3-0 with a flip shot at 11:48 of the second period.
Trevor Linden - who made his Islanders debut after coming from Vancouver on Feb. 6 for Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi - set up Reichel for New York's only goal 19 seconds into the final period.
New York only had one good chance after that, but Belfour got his right pad on Bryan Smolinski's shot from the slot. Modano iced the game with an empty-net goal with 70 seconds left, his 20th goal of the season.
A total of 11 players on the two teams were in Nagano. For Dallas, it was Modano, Lind, Lehtinen, Derian Hatcher, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jamie Langenbrunner. New York was represented by Reichel, Tommy Salo, Zigmund Palffy, Sergei Nemchinov and Bryan Berard.
Reichel skated a lap on Nassau Coliseum ice before the game holding his gold medal aloft as a member of the Czech team that captured the Olympics' biggest prize. He said it was a thrill.
"It was probably the best day of my hockey life," Reichel said. And then the celebration in Prague was wonderful, too."
Reichel, along with the other Olympians, said that jet lag kicked in.
"I need to go home and get some sleep," he said.
Modano sounded a bit delirious after his trip.
"I'm still flying," Modano said. "Twenty-eight hours on a plane, and still going strong - I'm a machine."
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