Holy moly! Is this what it used to feel like? You know, back when the Avalanche won hockey games on home ice? It’s been so long that I’d forgotten the sweet sensation of looking at the scoreboard and seeing their score higher than the visiting opponent as time ran out. In this instance, it wasn’t time so much as a sudden-death score by Nathan MacKinnon, but it resulted in a 2-1 overtime victory over the New York Islanders nonetheless.
The game started off with the Avalanche playing some of their best hockey in weeks. Breakouts were executed, opponents were beaten to pucks and the team even managed their fair share of shots on net. Ten, in fact, during opening 20 minutes while at even strength. That’s just two fewer than they managed for the entire game against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night. It was exciting to watch, like actually good hockey. And you know what? It even resulted in a goal, by Gabe Landeskog even! The play began with the captain controlling the puck below the left circle, shielding off a defender. After finding some open space back in the direction of the blue line, he turned around and rifled a shot through two Islanders defenders and past goalie Thomas Griess to put the Avalanche up 1-0.
The second period was nearly as effective, only breaking down toward the end after two Avalanche penalties. The first offense was credited to Fedor Tyutin for hooking Anders Lee. The second came just 44 seconds later when Nikita Zadorov executed a (rather soft) cross-check on Shane Prince, resulted in more than a minute of five-on-three power play. Unlike Colorado, most teams tend to score during these sequences, and that’s exactly what former Avalanche prospect Johnny Boychuk did, ripping a shot through a bunch of players and into the net to tie the game up at one.
The third period was a bit of a snoozer as both teams seemed to fall into “let’s just get this to overtime” mode—and, indeed, overtime would be the result after the final twenty minutes of regulation play. Fortunately for hockey fans, it was about as exciting as they come, with great opportunities and saves for both teams. But with 1:18 left in the overtime period, Calvin de Haan got caught hooking Gabriel Landeskog, giving Colorado a 4-3 advantage for the remainder of the extra frame. With just 17 seconds left, Jarome Iginla took a shot from the point that bounced right off Griess’ pads to an awaiting Nathan MacKinnon, who was previously trying to obstruct the goalie’s view. A little flick of a backhand was all it took—the Colorado Avalanche were victorious at home for the first time since November 15th.