With one last home game to make a statement (other than the usual, "we're not good enough"), the Islanders threw away a winnable game against slumping and traveling opponent. For stretches, the Islanders outplayed and outshot the Avalanche, who fell apart in the third with a string of unfortunate penalties.
Too bad the Islanders responded with their trademarks: shots wide of the net, too many passes, ineffective power plays, soft goals, trusting the fourth line against some of the league's best and enough missed chances to make it sting just that much more.
Everyone clearly needs a break, with the players apparently as pissed off as the people watching them.
Perhaps inspired by Thursday's disappointment against Calgary or the next two weeks of vacation (for 90% of the team, anyway), the Islanders had the better of play for most of the opening period. They had a 10-1 shots advantage half way through, with Evgeni Nabokov barely seeing an Avalanche skater. Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck were particularly active.
But the Avalanche gained steam and a quality shift by rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog resulted in the game's first lead. After a MacKinnon cycle, Landeskog crashed the net and got some help from Eric Boulton, who rode Landeskog into the crease. Nabokov's stick redirected the puck to a trailing MacKinnon who had three quarters of the net in which to score his 22nd goal of the season.
The Islanders had a few chances to close the period, but didn't equalize. Shots finished 13-6 in favor of the Islanders, but many were wide of the net as per usual.
The Islanders thought they had tied the game when Tavares lead a scrum that popped the puck behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere. A review confirmed the original call that the whistle blew before the puck crossed the line. On the bench, Thomas Vanek was hot about the call, and had a few shifts like a man possessed right after. Brock Nelson split two defenders and produced a mini breakaway that was stopped by Giguere just before the first commercial break.
But these are the Islanders which means any chance is a good chance to score a goal against them, particularly if you're in an absurdly long slump. A nice exchange between Josh Bailey and Thomas Hickey went unrewarded and back the other way. With a step on Brock Nelson, Matt Duchene went hard to the net and his weak shot slipped under Nabokov to break a 21-game goal scoring drought.
Not content to simply bust a slump, Duchene struck again a few minutes later. After a face-off win, Andrew MacDonald failed to clear the zone and during the cycle, Tyson Barrie pitched a pass clear across the slot to an unguarded Duchene, who painted the short side corner.
The Islanders responded with a few good shifts, but mainly elected to shoot the puck from out in the parking lot, rather than closer to the Avalanche net. Their first powerplay - I didn't know turtles had hands deft enough to hold sticks - was ineffective and ran their drought to 0-for-31.
Make it 0-for-32 after an anemic showing during a high-sticking penalty to Marc-Andre Cliche. Past the halfway point, the game appeared such a foregone conclusion that Howie and Butch started recounting Patrick Roy's exit from Montreal to Colorado in 1996, the go-to hockey conversation for casual fans across the globe.
Then the parade started. One after the other, Avalanche players marched to the penalty box in a dedicated effort to make the Islanders and their fans think they had a chance. First it was Cody McLeod for hooking, which was followed by another hooking call to Andre Benoit. Just as it seemed the Islanders were throwing away a chance at a 5-on-3 advantage by stupidly playing hot potato, Max Talbot was called for a face-off violation I still don't think I understand.
With almost two full minutes of 5-on-3, the Islanders played sloppily and disjointedly and looked like they would extend their drought until a Tavares one-timer got them on the board. Over a minute of power play time remained, and again the breakouts were a mess.
But an egregious Conan the Barbarian slash by Eric Johnson on the wrist of Frans Nielsen put the Islanders back on a two man advantage. And right off the face-off, non-Olympian Lubomir Visnovsky's blast from the point made the game a one-goal affair.
Assuming what they were doing was working, the Islanders went immediately back to their sloppy, loose play for the remaining minute forty of power play time. Tavares had a couple of looks but both went way wide.
Despite the gifts, little time remained. Nabokov did his part, stopping Paul Stasny on a great chance and making some scrambling saves I don't think he knew he made.
The Islanders last best chances were both by Brock Nelson, who just barely missed on a wraparound that skitted along the goal line and, few seconds later, tossed the puck to a crashing Grabner in the slot.
A zone clear by the Avalanche lead to an empty net goal by Landeskog and the Islanders' disappointing pre-Olympics schedule appeared to come to a boo-serenaded close.
But wait, there's more. In perhaps his last act as an Islander, Vanek joined in with the chorus of frustration by throwing his stick in the direction of Paul Stasny as he shot towards the open crease, awarding the Avalanche another empty net goal and the Islanders a final kick in the nuts before they scurry away to lick their wounds.
- A mini-Skinny by Brian Comption
- The Islanders' next game is February 27th against the Maple Leafs. I recommend you all use the Olympic break to your advantage and find another hobby to occupy your time for the rest of the Spring. Even if you come back to watch the Islanders last game, I can almost guarantee you won't miss anything.
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