After a scoreless and evenly played first period, the Colorado Avalanche appeared to restore the natural order of things by blitzing the New York Islanders in the second period, starting with the opening goal just 46 seconds after the puck dropped.
But after falling behind 3-0 before the second was nine minutes old, the host New York Islanders got one back at the midway point, which set the stage for a stunning comeback in the third.
Zach Parise and Scott Mayfield scored each of their third goals of the season, then Anthony Beauvillier gave the Islanders the lead just 17 seconds after Mayfield had tied it at 3-3. An empty netter and a late goal conceded equaled a 5-4 win for the Islanders, who move back above .500 after winning three games that filled many of us with dread.
First Period: This is fine.
After a nice pre-game tribute to Mr. 1,000 Josh Bailey, the teams got to doing what they were hoping to do, in a fast-paced and pretty entertaining 0-0 opening period.
The Identity Line once again made its presence known, as Cal Clutterbuck had one of the best chances of the first period. Clutterbuck won the puck with a check on the forecheck, then regained his footing quickly to accept a pass from the corner by Casey Cizikas. Clutterbuck made a move to the backhand but hit the crossbar with about seven minutes left in the period.
The Islanders had the first power play of the game late in the first period and created a couple of decent looks but could not get more than a couple of Noah Dobson point shots through.
It wasn’t long before the Avs got their turn, as a Casey Cizikas’ crosschecking penalty gave the Avalanche’s devastating power play its first opportunity, spread across both sides of the intermission.
Second Period: This is suddenly ugly.
Though the Isles survived the end of the first, their record eight straight games to open the season without conceding on the power play ended early in the second.
Evan Rodrigues, still carrying that stench of Penguin, converted a well-placed one-timer from the top of the slot 46 seconds in.
Things remained close and hopeful until the Avalanche got two insurance goals in just over a minute. Mikko Rantanen made it 2-0 on a clear-cut breakaway, which cruelly came after the Isles had hemmed the Avs in and forced a great Alexandar Georgiev save. With the Isles getting closer and closer to a goal, Ryan Pulock was caught chasing the dream as Rantanen launched behind him to accept the breakaway pass from Josh Manson.
With the Avalanche top line buzzing, Rodrigues scored his second to make it 3-0 at 8:33, with a lethal mid-slot deflection of a point shot from Nathan MacKinnon.
Was a blowout in the offing? Were we foolish to think the Isles were going to keep this close?
You’d be forgiven for thinking so — I hereby forgive myself for thinking so — but: hardly.
It probably helped that the Isles got on the board so quickly after falling behind 3-0. They weren’t being dominated by any means, despite the 3-0 score. The Isles gained the zone on a 3-on-3 rush led by Mathew Barzal. After Bailey laid an effective check to help them retain possession, Dobson was allowed to walk in and blast a slapshot home. Georgiev complained of goalie interference with Bailey gliding across the top of the crease, but no one bought the argument.
Alas, the Isles couldn’t get another one back before the end of the second, so they entered the third facing a daunting 3-1 lead against last spring’s Stanley Cup champs.
Third Period: This is terrific!
The chances of an unlikely comeback were further helped by an early goal in the third. After an offensive zone faceoff win, Zach Parise pounced on a rebound. And pounced again. And whacked. And whacked again.
How he was allowed to maintain residence at the top of the crease and chop away at the rebounds, I do not know, but it brought the Isles to within one just 3:35 into the third, and they smelled blood.
The pivotal moments didn’t arrive until the midpoint, but they came from unexpected sources, executing an approach that we pretty much never saw from the during the Trotz era.
First Mayfield, who had five goals over the previous two seasons, notched his third of October 2022...from the backdoor. It was the culmination of a magnificent Islanders shift that included Barzal and Cizikas wreaking havoc around the Avalanche zone, with Adam Pelech and Mayfield each taking turns pushing up toward the goal.
The final straw came when Barzal recollected the puck and circled yet again, and found Mayfield at the edge of the crease for a redirection.
With the crowd still catching their breath, Anders Lee poked a puck free along the boards in the Isles zone and — in another contrast to how they’ve played in recent years — Beauvillier was already flying the zone. He took the puck down the left wing and, with Lee well covered by Devon Toews, snapped a shot short-side to give the Isles the 4-3 lead. The building erupted.
The Isles didn’t shell up afterward, but Semyon Varlamov was needed — including a great save on Andrew Cogliano with a couple of minutes let.
When the Avalanche pulled Georgiev for a sixth attacker, Brock Nelson added insurance into the empty net on a pretty funny play, as superstar Cale Makar stumbled to kick the puck and proved that he’s totally mortal when he doesn’t have his magic stick.
That ended up being important, and the winning goal, as Alex Newhook got one back with 30 seconds remaining. It came off an Avalanche faceoff which was moved to the Isles zone after J-G Pageau was called for intentionally playing the puck on a delayed offside.
Lambert on the Blueline Attack
“They’re doing a great job of jumping in at the right time. They have done a really great job of recognizing those moments”— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 30, 2022
Lambert on the scoring from the defense and more ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/em88YJ0umd
- I’m still not sure what to make of this team — it’s just nine games, so that’s only prudent. But the highs so far this year sure are...I don’t know, higher? It’s probably just that they’re playing higher-event hockey now than under Trotz, so we’ve got more of the extremes that freer hockey can provide.
- I can feel this early Lambert era steadily recalibrating my viewing expectations though, because their success no longer hinges on a very specific and event-limiting way of playing. It’s entertaining. It’s different. It’s stressful in a new way.
- The Isles were great coming back in the third, and they didn’t let up after taking the lead. Fun!
- The Bailey family during the pre-game 1,000-game tribute: Adorable. How awesome for each of them.
- After revisiting some highlights on NHL dot-com, I notice the Avalanche broadcast tandem kind of sounds like the old-guy muppets in the balcony. Not in grumpy approach but in vocal tone.
The Isles go back on the road, visiting the surpisingly decent Blackhawks in Chicago on Tuesday.