The Avalanche (22-22-9) went into Saturday’s game hoping to turn things around after losing the previous five contests.
After the longest home-stand of the season that began prior to the All-Star game two weeks ago, the Avalanche played the second game of their East Coast road trip in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders (31-16-8). Since losing a close game in overtime 4-3 against the defending champion Washington Capitals on Thursday, the Avalanche are playing their first matinee of a back-to-back (the sixth afternoon contest this season). The Islanders, on the other hand, were coming off a victory against their local rival New Jersey Devils 2-1 in Newark last game and lead the Eastern Conference with 70 points.
The Avalanche needed to take home points on the remainder of the road trip if they wanted to get back into playoff contention. The team is two points shy of the second wildcard spot currently occupied by their Central Division rival St. Louis Blues.
The opening period was evenly-contested, with 10 shots on goal for the Avalanche compared to 12 shots by the New York Islanders. Carl Soderberg opened the scoring by taking advantage of a rebound off the boards behind net, originally caused by a wide Erik Johnson shot at the point midway through the period.
A.J. Greer was penalized for elbowing Valtteri Filppula late in the first for the Islanders’ first power-play of the game.
This was concerning, as the Avalanche are ranked 28th in the league on the penalty kill. Yet, the Islanders are equally-poor on the power-play, sitting 27th overall, and the Avs killed it off without being threatened.
With the 1-0 lead going into the 2nd period, the Avalanche were gifted an early power-play after the Islanders were punished for having too many players on the ice in the first minute of the period.
However, that call was nullified with a high stick from Mikko Rantanen on Johnny Boychuck. Erik Johnson took advantage of the extra space created on the 4-on-4 with a blistering wrist shot over the blocker-side shoulder of Lehner to extend the lead to two goals. Semyon Varlamov continued his solid play in net to kill offer the remainder of the Islanders’ power-play.
Early in the second period, the balance-of-play shifted in favor of the home team, as the Islanders maintained possession in the offensive zone and continued to put pressure on Varlamov and the Avs’ defense. However, Varlamov’s play remained consistent for much of the period both with his positioning as well as preventing rebound opportunities. Unfortunately, the Islanders’ offense cut the lead in half with less than two minutes remaining in the period as they squeaked a goal past the Avs’ goaltender.
Worryingly, defender Tyson Barrie came off the ice with wrist injury behind the net late in the period, although he returned to action soon after. The Avalanche were lucky not to lose the lead at the end of the period, with the Islanders hitting the post with less than 30 seconds left.
The key for the Avalanche going into the third period was preventing the Islanders from tying the game, since scoring a third goal against the Islanders at the Barclays Center was unlikely. In fact, New York leads the league in goals-against average (GAA) at 2.34 and the Isles’ netminder Robin Lehner has a 2.02 GAA in 29 games this season. Despite these statistics, the Avalanche almost scored their third as Lehner found himself away from his goal. Nathan MacKinnon was unable to get a shot on the vacant net as Islanders’ defenseman Matt Martin made a great play, though, and hard work by the Islanders earned the home side their game-tying goal via a Josh Bailey backhand.
Offensively, the Avalanche did not look like the same team that played the previous two periods, and didn’t even record a shot on goal for the first eight minutes of play. In contrast, the Islanders kept the Avalanche on the back foot with aggressive forecheck play. The Avalanche players’ frustrations translated into physical altercations as Soderberg and Barzal both received roughing penalties for another 4-on-4. A hooking penalty by Landeskog five seconds later gave the Islanders a 4-on-3 powerplay which they converted to take the 3-2 lead with six minutes remaining.
The Avalanche second line provided late-game heroics as J.T. Compher scored his 11th goal of the season off assists by Soderberg and Colin Wilson, taking the game to overtime with 2:45 left in regulation.
The Avalanche have not had a good season in overtime, having lost a league-leading nine games in extra frames. The Avalanche nearly won the game after Tyson Barrie hit the crossbar— and the OT was dominated by the Avalanche as the Islanders’ players seemed exhausted. Still, the Avs’ poor performance in overtime continued as Ryan Pulock scored the game-winner in the Islanders’ first offensive play.
This heartbreaking loss brought the Avalanche’s total losses in overtime to ten games for the season. This is unacceptable for a team on the edge of being in the playoffs. In fact, had the Avalanche won half of their ten OT losses and picked up those five extra points, they would be occupying a wildcard spot.
Despite today’s loss, there is good news looking ahead to tomorrow’s afternoon match-up (face-off is at 1:00 PM MT) against the Boston Bruins. The Avalanche are 12-2-1 in their past 15 games at TD Garden. Semyon Varlamov’s overall performance was strong, the netminder stopped 38 of 41 shots on goal. The Boston Bruins’ game today also went into overtime and had to be decided via a shootout. So, both teams have a quick recovery time ahead of tomorrow’s game that starts in less than 24 hours.