Each NHL conference’s last place team met in Denver for some bad hockey and instead a goaltending duel broke out to add excitement and tension to what became a 2-1 Colorado Avalanche overtime win over the New York Islanders.
Thomas Greiss and Calvin Pickard made over 30 saves each in regulation to keep the game at 1-1 through 60 minutes, then added several more as overtime (d)evolved into an exchange of 2-on-1 rushes, plus a Greiss save on a breakaway started by Pickard.
But with 1:16 left in overtime, Calvin de Haan was whistled for a dicey -- particularly by this game’s standards — high stick in the offensive zone, creating a 4-on-3 power play for the Avalanche.
After some great saves by Greiss, the Avalanche finally cashed in when Nathan MacKinnon backhanded a rebound with just 17 seconds left on the clock.
First Period: A goal, a penalty shot stop
Gabriel Landeskog got things started early, scoring on an uncontested turnaround slapshot just six minutes into the game. Ryan Strome had pursued him around the net, then released him as he headed out toward the point, saw his options, and simply fired on net.
They could have made it 2-0 when Matt Nieto, making his Avalanche debut after being claimed on waivers from the San Jose Sharks this week. Nieto blazed by the Isles defense through the neutral zone, but a perfectly timed Calvin de Haan hook prevented a shot...and drew a penalty shot call.
Thankfully, Greiss was all 2016 playoffs about it, and calmly gloved Nieto’s shot after a meandering shootout-style approach.
The Avalanche also had a power play opportunity, with Jason Chimera called for goalie interference after he was clearly pushed into Calvin Pickard, almost as a makeup call fro actual interference with the goalie that the refs didn’t bother to call.
Second Period: A bunch of shots, an equalizer
The Islanders opened the second period with 30 seconds of “almost.” Included in that were two golden opportunities for Nikolay Kulemin, stopped by Pickard. Then they hit a lull, forcing two Greiss saves on golden chances for Matt Duchene.
But the first penalty call against the Avalanche — after several more obvious and odd non-calls — led to two minutes of Isles puck movement and pressure, yet still more Pickard saves.
The Avs then got their second power play midway through the period after Dennis Seidenberg played slide tackler on Blake Comeau, but the Isles killed that one. The night of curious officiating resumed, however, when Brock Nelson was called for interference but victim Eric Gelinas was called for embellishing...which must’ve taken some psychic powers to ascertain.
That led to two minutes of four-on-four that instead looked completely like an Avalanche power play. This was one of many occasions to remind ourselves that the Avs have 25 regulation losses in 38 games, yet the rested Isles were...having problems, you might say.
With an actual extra man though, the Isles continued to create pressure, including on a delayed penalty where they thought they scored, only to have Travis Hamonic whistled for offside on the shot he took from the blueline. Replays weren’t clear, but it didn’t matter: Play was whistled dead, and you can’t undo that one even if they got it wrong.
The ensuing power play yielded more pressure, and a 5-on-3 after Shane Prince was shoved from behind into the boards. Johnny Boychuk converted on that one with a blast from the top of the slot.
They could not add to the damage with a full minute left on 5-on-4, however.
Third Period: More shots, more saves, no goals
In the third period, the Islanders’ weakness at 4-on-4 continued to reveal itself, requiring Greiss to save their bacon yet again on a Mikko Rantanen one-timer.
Overall, the teams traded decent chances and strong goaltending culminating in good pressure from the Islanders’ fourth line in the final minute of regulation, followed by some volleys from the point by Johnny Boychuk and Thomas Hickey after an offensive zone faceoff in the final 12 seconds.
OT: Then there was that
Overtime went as described in the opening, though thankfully the oddly bad ice — pucks were bouncing and players were falling — didn’t seem to affect the extra period. There was hope for a goalie interference call — the ref was shouting “out of the blue! Out of the blue!” seconds beforehand — but MacKinnon toed the line well, and the Isles had no cause for appeal.
It’s a shame it came down to a power play, but the current overtime setup is designed to create, something, anything, as the people demand a winner in our No Ties Allowed century.
Quotes of the Night
“Cross-checking is allowed now. I don’t know when they removed it from the rulebook, but cross-checking is allowed.”
>>Butch Goring after Gelinas cross-checked John Tavares from behind three times in a row, and just before some curious hooking non-calls
“Well Anders is a mountain in front. So just to get it by Anders is an achievement in itself.”
>>Johnny Boychuk on his goal, which used Anders Lee as a screen
The Islanders travel to Glendale, Arizona, where they will meet the Coyotes, who were also in action tonight in Anaheim.