Remember that horrid game the Islanders played in Colorado about two weeks ago? The one they lost 5-0?
This was the opposite of that.
They might not admit it, but the memory of that 5-0 horror show in Denver was absolutely on the minds of not only the Islanders, but everyone in Nassau Coliseum watching the rematch. And so the script was flipped. The Islanders played a calm, controlled - one might say, mature - game and gave the still dangerous Avalanche nothing to work with and few opportunities to gain any control at all.
Things were going the Islanders way from the beginning. Early pressure less than two minutes in led to Nick Leddy jumping on a puck that squirted out of a crowd in the Avalanche crease. Leddy's slapshot goal was his 100th NHL point (at 23 years old, no less) and was barely announced by the time Anders Lee took advantage of a juicy Leddy rebound off the Nassau Coliseum boards. The puck bounced to Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov, who played it right onto Lee's stick as the forward was zooming towards the net. The power play goal was Lee's second of the season.
Shots were 13-5 in favor of the Islanders after one period, thanks in part to being 14 of 19 on face-offs. They finished with 40 shots overall to Colorado's 20, which are nearly identical numbers to the previous meeting.
Two second period goals were the result of both sweet touch passes and impressive strength. Kyle Okposo shook off at least three Avs to set up John Tavares in front of Varlamov. Tavares missed, but corralled the puck and deftly found Travis Hamonic for a slapshot to make it 3-0. While killing a penalty, Frans Nielsen blocked a shot from the point and softly fed Nikolay Kulemin for a breakaway. Kulemin's backhander to make it 4-0 was his second goal (and second short-handed score) of the season.
How in control were the Islanders? Even the fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cory Conacher had a nice game and a handful of scoring chances. The Islanders' fifth goal was Cizikas' first of the season and started from some good forechecking and a steal from Martin. He fed Conacher, who found Lubomir Visnovsky at the point and who in turn hit Cizikas in the slot, all in about three seconds.
But to achieve complete and total vengeance, the Islanders couldn't stop at five. The cherry on top would be courtesy of Ryan Strome, who finally got his first of the season off a sweet steal and pass from the behind the net by Brock Nelson. The "Kid Line" of Lee, Strome and Nelson more or less had their way with the Avalanche all evening, culminating in a power play in which they refused to give up the puck for nearly a minute.
Some of the few threats for Colorado were a partial breakaway for Matt Duchene in the opening minute that rang off the post, a giveaway by in the slot that was stopped by Jaroslav Halak in the second and a few shots from captain Gabriel Landeskog. Halak flashed the glove on Landeskog in the second, and his right pad late in the third.
Notes and Fun:
- You might say Halak "only" stopped 20 shots for his second consecutive shutout, but he seemed to have more work to do than he did in Glendale on Saturday or than Varlamov did when he shut out the Islanders in Denver. Halak was where he needed to be when he needed to be all night with no drama or scrambling.
- It seems like every game, Okposo makes at least one move with raw, brute force that makes me say, "holy cow." I wrote a zeitgeist a while ago about the Islanders having bionic implants and I wonder if he actually did have hydraulic legs installed. Beastmode still engaged.
- In case you can't decipher my lousy re-capping, that was six different goal scorers for the Islanders, and at least one for each line, the power play and a shortie.
- Even deep into the third leading by four goals, the Islanders kept their foot on the gas and pressed and pressed until the very end. Yeahyeahyeah Avalanche regression whatever. It was still beautiful to watch. Strome damn near had a second one with about five minutes to go.
- Nielsen talked about playing the type of game the Islanders do on the road and it looked like they did. There was very little cuteness with the puck, just a few turnovers (most notably by Visnovsky, who did have a good game) and a lot of straightahead forchecking and pressure. No blueline dancing.
- Jiggs McDonald (who, by the way, the Islanders are 13-1-3 with when he's in the booth for Howie Rose), really had it in for the refs all night. I'm usually a believer in referee karma (aka "it all evens out in the end"), but tonight the inconsistencies were evident. Tight first, loose second, nothing in the third, both teams called and not called for various weirdness. I just like hearing Jiggs call them on it.
- John Tavares is a great hockey player, a leader and a role model. But his mustache game remains the weakest of weaksauces. Maybe he should skip Movember and back another charity.
Okposo walks past the media coming off the ice and loudly yells "you guys gonna find something negative to write about that one?!"— Matt Saidman (@MattSaidman) November 12, 2014
And now a special, appropriate musical performance from The Godfather of Soul to accompany the flight to Florida. Hit me!