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Recap: Islanders 6, Avalanche 4: Mat Barzal assists, Matt Duchene exits

A strange game in many ways, and the only way the Duchene saga could have ended.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders
No Duchene pics. But he was there!
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The vast majority of the hockey world will remember this game, to the extent they will at all, as “That one where Matt Duchene got traded during the first period.”

But Islanders fans will remember is as “That one where Matt Duchene got traded during the first period, and the Islanders got a bunch of crazy bounces and Mathew Barzal set a team rookie record with five assists.”

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | Corsica | HockeyViz]

After a summer of rumors and wishes among Islanders faithful that the team would pull off a long-rumored trade push for Duchene, the Colorado Avalanche visited New York to flash the prize right in their faces.

For two shifts, at least.

Then he became someone else’s prize. News broke early in the first period that Duchene had left the ice because he was no longer Avalanche property; he’d be headed to Ottawa as part of a three-way trade with the Senators and Nashville Predators.

Then the two teams kept playing, while Duchene packed his bags and got the hell out of the building.

First Period: Matt Duchene Has Been Traded

No really, this happened. In the first period. After the wantaway center had two shifts. To the team the Avalanche are about to play twice next weekend in Sweden. On a night when the Avalanche were already hurting at forward.

Duchene was yanked from the ice as Blake Comeau was helped off. Surreal.

Oh but anyway, there was hockey in the first period, too. Scott Mayfield celebrated his return to the lineup with a goal at 4:25 on a pinch that was helped in by an Avalanche poke check attempt and a heapin’ helpin’ of Barclays Center ice. (It would not be the last Barclays assist of the night.)

Duchene was on the ice for that goal against, by the way. And the assist gave Josh Bailey points in an NHL-leading 9th consecutive game.

Jordan Eberle doubled the lead at 12:58 on a Mathew Barzal pass that was so fast multiple camera angles could not catch up to what was going on. Barzal — who so many loud fans this summer told us should be traded for Duchene — fought off a check and snuck a pass to the high slot where Eberle was cocked and waiting. Andrew Ladd’s drive to the net helped draw attention away.

Second Period: Duchene’s Still Traded

So the Avalanche are without Comeau and Duchene now but the Isles’ top line decides to spot them one by getting all mixed up in coverage in their own zone. Erik Johnson found Nathan MacKinnon uncovered down low to cut the lead to 2-1 just 40 seconds into the period.

But Carl Soderberg helpfully took a penalty 43 seconds later while minding Barzal in the slot, and the Islanders quickly notched a power play goal for the fourth consecutive game. Nick Leddy’s shot from the point was deflected up by Johnson and past Jonathan Bernier to restore a two-goal lead.

Then three minutes later, another Isles power play goal came on another Leddy point shot with assists from Bailey, Barzal and Barclays Center. This time the shot caromed off the glass behind the net and rebounded in off the helpless Avalanche.

A proper symbol for their night, surely.

In the meantime, the Avalanche mounted a few scrambles around the Isles net but Thomas Greiss or his defense — Mayfield with a clear on the line — took care of things.

Then the point-shot deflection fun continued: At the mid-way point Johnny Boychuk double-cocked and enjoyed the benefit of a double-deflection by Avalanche sticks and into the net past a screened Bernier.

Lest the Islanders get too comfortable, however...they got too comfortable. Three minutes after Boychuk’s goal, Gabriel Landeskog outbattled the Isles to slot one in to make it 5-2. Then right after Eberle hit the post, Bailey took an interference penalty.

Third Period: Duchene Gone, but Barzal is still here

During the intermission, Barzal was retroactively awarded an assist on Boychuk’s goal, giving him four for the evening. He would make it five - an Islanders rookie record - by feeding Eberle for his second of the night on a 2-on-1 early in the third. With Nikita Zadorov sliding to break up the play, Barzal neatly slid the puck under the defender’s stick to set up Eberle for the easy tap-in. Nice way to warm up for his first game against his old team on Tuesday.

The rest of the period passed mostly without excitement save a fight between Mayfield and Zadorov, which gave the Islanders defenseman a Gordie Howe hat trick. The Islanders might not have totally deserved their 6-2 lead at the time, but they didn’t sit back in the third and controlled it for the most part.

But a weird game full of weird bounces and one weird trade needed a weird ending. Avalanche rookie Alex Kerfoot scored twice in the final 30 seconds, the first happening... you guessed it, in a pretty weird way. Angling from behind the net, Kerfoot flipped the puck over the cage. It then bounced off of Dennis Seidenberg and behind Greiss to make the score 6-3. Then with eight seconds left, Sven Andrighetto flung a pass from the corner and found Kerfoot alone on the other side of the net. He launched it home, but the comeback fell short.

Greiss was good all game, especially in the first when the Avalanche tried to assert themselves early. Doug Weight said before the game that he could go right back to Greiss against Edmonton on Tuesday, so we’ll see.

With all of the (deserved) talk about the wild three-way Duchene trade during and after the game, Barzal put on a show of his own. He continues to give the Islanders a dimension (and a second scoring line) they’ve lacked for God knows how long. They’re not all gonna be as wacky as this one, but Barzal’s got all the signs pointing in the right directions.

Next: Connor McDavid and the Oilers, who lost 4-0 tonight in Detroit, come to Brooklyn on Tuesday night. Meanwhile Matt Duchene’s first two games as an Ottawa Senator... will be against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and Friday in Sweden. Hoo boy.