Even on off nights, it’s hard to beat the Colorado Avalanche.
The New York Islanders were the latest to receive this news, being on the receiving end of a 5-4 comeback win in overtime at Ball Arena. The Isles were up 3-1 and up 4-3 at two points in the game, but could not hold off a rolling train with a dog at the helm.
Nathan MacKinnon and Valeri Nichushkin led the way with three points and two points respectively. On an off-night for the defense after a few hard-fought gritty games, the offense came alive to eventually pull the Avs through for its third straight win.
With Colorado having most of the momentum going forward and creating chances, they would first fall behind. It came when Sam Girard couldn't handle a bouncing puck, leading Pierre Engvall to score on the breakaway.
A quick look at Engvall's goal pic.twitter.com/yEiHjNv2DQ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 3, 2024
But, the Isles's lead would only last 32 seconds. Devon Toews was found in the slot alone and ripped it by former Avs netminder Semyon Varlamov to tie it up.
Colorado looked for the lead and was pushing for it, with a couple of powerplays along with Cale Makar hitting the post. But nothing would come of it thanks to blocked shots and saves from both Varly and Ilya Sorokin, who came in midway through the period for an unknown reason. Varlamov would not return.
With Sorokin now in the net, he would actually help his team offensively, He helped set up the rush on a Nathan MacKinnon roughing penalty. Late in the period, his assist would find Brock Nelson on the breakaway and give New York a lead late in the period and into the room.
With the Avs looking to get back into it, they would hurt themselves first. Simon Holmstrom was able to sneak a shot from the far circle at a tight angle by an unsuspecting Georgiev to double the lead.
LOOK AT THE FLICKA DA WRIST! pic.twitter.com/04nuZlRkUe— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 3, 2024
But, Colorado would be given a lifeline when Matt Barzal high-sticked Bowen Byram. While it won’t be credited as a powerplay goal, Valeri Nichushkin got the rebound right after it expired and cut the lead to one.
After killing off an Andrew Cogliano holding penalty, the first line went to work. Their work would be paid off when Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen connected, resulting in Jonathan Drouin being left alone in the slot to snipe it home to even the score.
But even after all their hard work, the Avs’ tie would not last long. A weird, wacky goal by Alexander Romanov tricked into the net off the skate of Jack Johnson, putting Colorado behind the eight-ball with 20 minutes to go.
The Avs were creating chances, but they were not Grade-A chances for Colorado. Jack Johnson may have had the best chance of the bunch, sending a shot from the slot over the net.
Georgiev was then called upon during a too-many-men penalty kill and did well. Logan O’Connor almost responded at the other end on a shorthanded breakaway but was denied by the other netminder though. Regardless, Colorado had a chance to respond on an ensuing power play.
Respond they did. There was a bit of luck when Makar’s stick broke on a slapshot, but it just so happened to set up MacKinnon perfectly to find Nichushkin right in front to tie the game.
Colorado almost ended it in the final minute regulation when Nichushkin willed his way through three defenders in spectacular fashion. But Sorokin stopped it and was deemed to have control of the puck despite MacKinnon putting it beyond the goal line. The madness made Avs fans irate while heading into OT, but Colorado did have a power play carrying over looking to end it.
The extra frame would not last long thanks to the powerplay carryover. MacKinnon did what he does best: slapshot from his usual spot at the circle, beating Sorokin clean to complete the comeback.
All things considered, this wasn’t a “bad” game by the Avs’ standards despite their early struggles. Colorado out-chanced the Islanders throughout the game but did not get enough threatening chances on both Varlamov and Sorokin. Give the Isles their flowers, they did get in the way of a lot of shots, blocking 31 shots. They did what they needed to do to keep up with the tight Eastern Conference race and at least got one point out of this game. But it simply wasn’t enough to outwork the Avalanche even though they were on the back foot.
Part of the reason the Avs had to work from behind most of the game was the difficulties Georgiev had all night. The first two goals he will likely want back, going five-hole on him both times. The third goal he never saw coming at him at rapid speed, and the fourth goal was simply unlucky. Regardless, it was very different from what we saw against both the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks. He did get the help in front of him to get the win though.
Finally, MacKinnon didn’t leave his dominant self behind in 2023, recording another two assists on the night and the game-winning goal. His home point streak is now at 20 games, and he was just part of the Avalanche staying in the game all night long. His help came from Nichushkin in particular with his two goals. It now levels him on goals in the season with the aforementioned MacKinnon, along with Rantanen as well - all three on 19 goals - until the overtime winner, of course. These three may just be the best players on the planet at the moment, and this game may have proved just that.
Colorado hits the road for one game, but it is a big one against the division-rival Dallas Stars. Puck drop Thursday night is at 6:00 p.m. MT.