After 3 games without a goal at even strength, Patrick Roy made the decision to jumble up his line combinations in hopes of finding an offensive spark. The two biggest changes were Jamie McGinn moving from the first to the third line and Nathan MacKinnon moving from third line center to second line winger. Unfortunately, the lineup changes did little to shake the Avalanche out of their offensive slump in the first period.
The Avalanche didn't start this game off the way most of us hoped, allowing a number of long Islanders shifts in their own zone. Within the first 4 minutes the Islanders had a number of very dangerous passes through the slot that the New York forwards couldn't quite pull the trigger on. The most dangerous opportunity came when a puck rebounded off J.S. Giguere and was caught in Tyson Barrie's feet just above the top of the crease. With a gaping net no Islanders forward could gather the puck, which Barrie eventually found and cleared. By the 15:00 mark, the Islanders were already outshooting the Avalanche 8-1.
The Avalanche had their first meaningful shift almost 10:00 into the period, when Stastny, MacKinnon, and Landeskog established a strong cycle in the Islanders zone for at least 50 seconds. Despite some good movement and a lot of good battling, the line was unable to generate a shot on net. The shift did however, generate a little bit of spark for the Avalanche. On their next shift Nate Guenin floated a shot towards the net which generated a nice rebound in front, but Jamie McGinn and Max Talbot were unable to get to the loose puck.
The Landeskog and MacKinnon line would continue their offensive pressure on their next shift, establishing another strong cycle in the Islanders zone. Gabriel Landeskog absorbed a hard check in the corner and sent the Islanders defender to the ice before driving the net with the puck. Landeskog was quickly checked into Nabokov and the defense followed the pair across the crease while the puck rebounded back to Nathan MacKinnon in the slot. MacKinnon fired the puck into the empty net, giving the Avalanche a 1-0 lead on just their 4th shot of the game. With the goal MacKinnon extended his career high point streak to 8-games and Landeskog hit a career best 9-game point streak.
The Islanders nearly tied things up on the very next shift. Colin McDonald set himself up in the Avalanche crease as Josh Bailey skated the puck down the left wing. J.S. Giguere, not exactly a fan of his new neighbor threw a check at McDonald, but as he stepped forward Bailey tried to step around the back of the Avalanche net for the wraparound. Giguere made a great left pad save on the wraparound attempt and in the ensuing battle along the boards, the Islanders were called for roughing. A big moment in this first period, one that could just as easily have been a deflating tie goal but wound up a power play for the Avs.
The Avalanche struggled to establish possession early in the power play, but generated a few strong chances in the last 40-30 seconds of the man advantage. Their best chance came with Tyson Barrie pinching down near the right-side faceoff dot. The left Avalanche point man sent a beautiful saucer pass to Barrie, but he was unable to hold onto the puck and fanned on the shot despite a gaping net in front of him. Immediately after the power play John Mitchell had a decent attempt as he skated the puck in a full lap through the offensive zone before stepping out in front of the net and firing it right into Nabokov's chest. Never change Mitchell.
The Avalanche managed to slow the period down from there, and a period which started with a 10-1 shot advantage for the Islanders ended with a 13-6 advantage. The best opportunity in the final 7:00 came from Matt Duchene. With time winding down the Avalanche picked up the puck in the Avalanche's zone and sent a chip pass 15 feet in the air and across the blueline to lead P.A. Parenteau into the Islanders zone. Parenteau centered the puck to Matt Duchene who drove the Islanders net all alone but the buzzer went just as he reached the hashmarks. Duchene made a nice move at the buzzer and may have had Nabokov beat, but he let up on the shot (#class) and headed for the Avs bench. That one has got to hurt for a guy aching for goals, opportunities like that don't come often and with just 1-2 more seconds he may have given the Avs a 2-0 lead. We'll throw that one in the "Duchene Ping Count" for the night.
The Islanders had two golden, and strange, opportunities early in the second period. First the Islanders attempted to stuff the puck near side on Giguere, but the Avalanche goalie made a strong pad save on the post. Giguere was then bumped by an Isles forward and tipped over, falling across his net while somehow keeping his toe on the post. The Islanders forced the puck under Giguere's pad as the whistle blew, and the goal was ruled off for intent to blow.
3 minutes into the period O'Reilly made a beautiful leading pass for Matt Duchene who reached out to tip the puck on net and barely angled the shot high. On the next Avalanche possession a streaking Avalanche forward sent a long cross ice pass to Nick Holden as he pinched from the left point. Holden fired a nice wrist shot at Nabokov but the Islanders goalie found it with the glove. From there the Avalanche had several minutes of decent puck possession but limited dangerous scoring chances. With 14 minutes on the clock the Islanders top line had a very dangerous shift in the Avs zone, as Kyle Okposo flew down the right side and fired into Giguere's shoulder. After two more scrambling shift int the Avs zone, Brock Nelson caught the Avalanche on a change with a defenseman up ice and made a nice move to split the two Avs defenders. Not used to being a defensemen, Ryan O'Reilly collided with Nick Holden as he bit on the move and Nelson made it to the Avalanche net all alone. Fortunately Giguere stood tall on the near breakaway opportunity.
A few minutes later the Avalanche had another good opportunity, but Thomas Hickey couldn't hold on to a centering pass in front of the Avs net. On the ensuing play Tyson Barrie sent the puck along to P.A. Parenteau, who sprung Matt Duchene 1 on 2 up the right side boards. Duchene threw on the afterburners and drove the net with confidence, firing the puck into Nabokov's midsection, then whacking at his pad as he skated by the net. Whether it was the second whack or Nabokov's own movement, the puck trickled out of Nabokov's pads and over the line. Curse over, time for more goals please. Duchene had a huge celebration behind the net yelling and punching the glass in excitement. Good for you Duchene. In case you haven't been counting, that was Matt Duchene's long awaited 100th career goal, and P.A. Parenteau's 200th career point.
40 seconds after the Duchene curse-breaker, the Avalanche headed back on the power play when Michael Grabner high sticked John Mitchell. The Avs had some great movement throughout the power play, including a beautiful chance in the slot by Jamie McGinn, but Nabokov deflected the puck wide. Moments after the power play expired Matt Duchene received the puck in the right corner where he waits, waits and wires a shot through Nabby on the short side and into the back of the net. 3-0 Avs and 2-goals for Mighty Matt.
On their next shift the Avalanche had another beautiful opportunity as Max Talbot carried the puck into the zone looking for a pass. Mitchell and McGinn set up shop with their respective Islanders near the net and so Talbot passed to a trailing Jan Hejda who fired a hard shot on net, where . The Islanders next best chance came with 7:40 on the clock when Kyle Okposo centered the puck to John Tavares just above the crease. Erik Johnson denied the attempt with a very deft stick check before wrestling the puck away from Tavares in the corner. The Islanders started to get a little momentum back in response to the 3-0 lead and earned their first power play of the night off a Max Talbot hooking call. Moments into the power play John Tavares had a beautiful chance in from of the Avs net, attempting to pull the puck across the crease and beat Giguere on the far side backhand (picture the Forsberg shootout), but he lost the puck on the backhand side (sorry JT, you're no Forsberg). The Avalanche killed the rest of the penalty with relative ease, including a short handed chance for Paul Stastny short-side on Nabokov (wonder if that's the book on Nabby, since lots of guys are trying to squeak the puck in there tonight).
In the closing minutes of the period, Paul Stastny's line had a very dangerous rush up the ice at the end of a long shift. Landeskog sent the puck across the crease left to right, where Paul Stastny neglected to shoot and sent the puck back right to left past Landeskog to a wide open Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon, however, was unable to tap the bouncing puck into the wide open net. Just for laughs Duchene had another solid chance at the 2nd period buzzer, trying to bat a puck on net from hip height as Nabokov slid across the crease. The Avalanche outshot the Islanders 10-4 in the second period, bringing the total after 40:00 to 17-16 Islanders. A good response after a slow start in the first period.
The first few minutes of the third period were relatively uneventful, with lots of neutral zone play for both teams with no one able to establish any meaningful possession. On the Islander's first long shift of the period Marc Andre Cliche nearly took Casey Czikas' head off with a high stick in an attempt to catch his balance. the Islanders had a decent start to their power play, as Thomas Vanek fired three close range shots into Giguere's pad on the short side (he should tach Nabby how to seal that post), but the Avalanche killed of the remainder of the penalty with relative ease. By the power play's midpoint, Peter McNab and Mike Haynes were nearly drowned by the booing of Islanders fans. We know that feels New York, we do.
Following the successful penalty kill the Avalanche had a dangerous sequence in the Islanders zone which somewhat amazingly did not result in a 4-0 lead. On the rush McGinn and Mitchell drove down the left wing and centered the puck to Max Talbot in the crease. Talbot was tied up by the Islanders defenseman, but the puck bounced off a skate and squeaked past Nabokov and just wide of the cage. Talbot turned and tried to stuff the puck into the wide open net, but hit the post, then the skate of the Islanders d-man before the Islanders cleared the puck to the point. Later on the shift Jamie McGinn sent a beautiful backhand pass to Talbot who tipped the puck on net, but Nabokov made a solid pad save.
On the next shift, Nathan MacKinnon would keep the pressure on the Islanders defense as the Avalanche made an amazing tic-tac-toe passing play starting at their own red line and nearly ending in the Islanders net. First Tyson Barrie fired a pass cross ice from his own goal line to the blue line bench side for Landeskog. Then Landeskog sent the puck cross ice to the next blue line penalty box side for Stastny and finally, Stastny sent the puck back across to Nathan MacKinnon in the high slot who fired a hard shot on net, but it went off Nabokov's pad and wide.
After the TV timeout, Cody McLeod was given the lightest hooking call ever called in the modern NHL. Just over a minute into the penalty kill Andre Benoit was assessed a hooking minor as John Tavares split the D. The Avalanche then watched as the Islanders killed off 35 seconds of their own power play trying to get the Avalanche to touch the puck. Just when it looked like the Avalanche would escape a long 5-on-3 penalty kill, Max Talbot played the puck on the faceoff with his hand and received another 2:00 in the box. That's a full 2:00 of 5-on-3 hockey for the Islanders, because why make it easy on yourselves Avalanche?
The Islanders set up in the Avalanche zone and Vanek sent a hard shot on net that was blocked by Jan Hejda. When the puck bounced to the high slot Ryan O'Reilly and Jan Hejda both challenged the shooter, but the puck made its way to Giguere and rebounded right to the stick of John Tavares, who easily fired it into the back of the net. 3-1 Avalanche, with 1:09 left on the Islanders power play. The Avalanche continued their parade to the penalty box as Erik Johnson delivered a two hand slash to Frans Nielson. That's another 28 seconds of 5-on-3 for the Islanders. Want to guess what happened next? Lubomir Visnovksy with a blast from the point. 3-2 Avalanche. Talbot comes out of the box and now the Islanders have almost a full 2:00 of 5-on-4 power play remaining. The Islanders nearly tied the game as John Tavares fired a shot wide from the left faceoff dot.
When the teams finally returned to even strength the Avalanche pushed the play back at New York. After a shift in the Islanders zone, P.A. Parenteau had a decent chance in the slot when a rising shot from the point deflected off a defenseman and dropped at his feet. Parenteau fired the shot into Nabokov's pads and received a facewash from the Islanders' defense for his trouble. Parenteau was not a big fan of the greeting and some shenanigans ensued in front of the net. Someone in the crowd was also seemingly upset with the play, as a fight broke out in the stands near the play. Apparently the offending fan had to be carried out over the shoulder of security guards (can you carry Cal Clutterbuck out next please?).
After the pair of minor donnybrooks, the Avalanche returned to the power play as Thomas Vanek tripped Gabriel Landeskog near the blueline. The Avalanche struggled to establish possession on the power play, but with 40 seconds left on the man advantage Paul Stastny made an amazing move driving the net from the half boards and deking past two Islanders defensemen before firing a hard shot on net. Nabokov made a very good save to maintain the one goal deficit. After the power play the Islanders had a great chance off a hard point shot from Travis Hamonic, which deflected off Avalanche goaltender J.S. Giguere. The Avalanche wouldn't make the final moments of the game easy on themselves, as they let Brock Nelson skate circles through the offensive zone before attempting a wraparound on J.S. Giguere. Giguere challenged Nelson on the initial drive towards the net and could not reach his far post by the time of the wraparound, but Nelson couldn't get the angle and sent the puck sliding across the goalmouth before an Avalanche defenseman was able to gain possession. The Islanders had a number of other good shots on or at the net, but Giguere held the fort and forced the Islanders to pull Nabokov. With the goalie pulled the Avalanche brought a strong forecheck into the neutral zone and Landeskog gained possession of the puck when the Islanders dumped it in. Landeskog, too far from the empty net to shoot, made a beautiful toe drag past an Islanders forward at the Avs blue line before taking a few strides and sinking the puck into an empty net. 4-2 Avalanche, and that's all she wrote folks.
BUT WAIT! Buzzer sounds, score is 4-2 Avalanche and everyone goes home right? Wrong. Moments later the score changes to 5-2 with a goal credited to Paul Stastny with 2 seconds left. Turns out, as Paul Stastny took that last shot on the empty net (which was blocked by an Islanders defenseman) another Islanders player threw their stick at Paul Stastny to attempt the shot block. That folks, makes for an automatic goal when the net is empty. Rule 53 for a free Paul Stastny goal. Here's that rule courtesy of NHL.com
The Avalanche had no business letting this game get as close as it did, but thats what 5 consecutive penalties will get you. Learn the lesson and move on, a few weeks off and a week of practice for the Avs non-Sochi players before they head into the final stretch of this 2014 season.
3 Stars of the Game:
1. Matt Duchene - 2 goals including the game winner.
2. Gabriel Landeskog - 1 goal, 1 assist, and created the first real possession shifts in this game to turn around the 10-1 shot differential. Extended his point streak to 9 games.
3. J.S. Giguere - He should not have had to make this list, but stood tall on some dangerous opportunities in the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes.
Honorable Mention: Tyson Barrie (3 assists), Nathan MacKinnon (1 goal, extends his point streak to 8 games, Paul Stastny (sound play all around, and the silly "thrown stick" goal. He made lots of room for Landeskog and MacKinnon tonight), Patrick Bordeleau (slowed the game down with some good possession in the first period)
In Case You Missed It:
- The Islanders had an Olympic sendoff ceremony at the beginning of the game, honoring Olympians from both teams.