The New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche started their hot streak-riding goalies for a Thursday night contest in Denver; Avs starter Semyon Varlamov and Isles backup Thomas Greiss did not disappoint.
Greiss (28 saves) allowed an early goal by Francois Beauchemin that he probably didn't see (and may have been deflected). Varlamov (33 saves) allowed a tying goal by Brock Nelson that he most certainly did not see, with a screen in front by Anders Lee and the defenseman who tried to defend him.
Other than that, the teams traded chances, odd-man rushes, blown coverages, and other coach-infuriating things that put both Greiss and Varlamov to work. Each arguably had equal work, though the Avs could've won any number of ways via the chances they sent wide.
Ultimately Greiss was only beaten a second time by his own man, when a "why not?" volley from the corner by Beauchemin went in off of Mikhail Grabovski's leg with 3:48 to play. That was enough, and all that was needed for a 2-1 Avalanche win.
The Isles had a great opportunity to get the go-ahead goal before that, but they wasted a late power play -- no shots registered -- after the Avs were called for too many men.
For the Avalanche, that makes their first four-game win streak since 2013-14. For the Isles, that makes two regulation losses in a row for just the third time this season (and the first time that doesn't involve Montreal).
A Different Look
After a mid-game line mix during Tuesday's loss to the Panthers, it was an open question whether Jack Capuano would restore the lines that forged the bulk of their 8-0-2 run or do something different.
He did something different, and the top nine now looked like this:
Bailey - Tavares - Okposo
Lee - Nielsen - Kulemin
Nelson - Grabovski - Strome
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Of those, the Nielsen line looked most like it had no chemistry. Yes, they had two noteworthy shifts where they were hemmed in their own zone for an alarming length of time, but even aside from that -- or perhaps causing that -- they just never looked on the same page.
Nielsen and Kulemin are the more astute defensive players, but this looked like more than just an admittedly struggling Lee bringing them down. The combo rarely read each other in sync.
The teams' two top lines rarely faced each other until late in the third period, when they swapped end-to-end rushes and the John Tavares line took two consecutive icings without the Isles bench calling a timeout. Evidently, Tavares told Jack Capuano no timeout was needed, and they did survive to get a line change.
Anyway, the game was one of many traded chances -- not the kind of track sprint game you want to get into with the Avalanche and their young guns. But fortunately Greiss was very much on his game, and the Avs were misfiring when they managed to pass around him.
Though raw scoring chance totals were very similar throughout the game, to these eyes the Avalanche had more golden opportunities that were either stopped by Greiss or fired wide. (That includes one sneaky Carl Soderberg bank off Greiss that hit the far post, though Nick Leddy also hit the crossbar for the Isles at the opening of the middle period while it was still 1-0.) Matt Duchene alone could curse himself for not giving the Avs 2-1 and 3-1 leads.
If there is any consolation to the Isles losing in regulation in a game that could've gone either way, it's that they lost on a fluke bounce and their play with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker was refreshingly organized and smart. They didn't create true Varlamov-testing opportunities at 6-on-5, but they at least used the extra man well and only lost possession and enabled clears due to good Avs defensive play.
The Isles' two-game road trip concludes in the desert, where the Coyotes await and they play some mean air guitar. They follow that up with a Monday home game against the Ducks before a five-day holiday break.