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Avalanche 5, Islanders 4: Third-period outburst makes it frustrating, then interesting

Varlamov’s 44 saves wasted, but at least the Isles made it fun after driving us crazy.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders
“How ‘bout a little help here, guys?”
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders are still keeping things interesting, we’ll give them that.

For the second time in a week, they entered the third period against the vaunted Colorado Avalanche with a chance to win, and once again they let things slip away.

It was a completely different script Monday night at Belmont, however: Instead of taking the lead early in the third, they gave up four goals in the blink of an eye before making it interesting again for what ended up a 5-4 loss.

Despite conceding five goals, Semyon Varlamov actually put in a head-standing performance, with 44 saves, several of them of the jaw-dropping nature. But it’s the Avalanche. They shoot and score a lot.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: The refs are here

The first period, where the Avalanche came out blitzing and outshot the Isles 20-7, was otherwise marked by some dubious penalty calls and an exchange of power play goals on each team’s only power play. (Oliver Wahlstrom and Tyson Jost received off-setting penalties for boarding and embellishment, respectively.)

On the first power play, Anders Lee opened scoring when Noah Dobson found him back door for the young defenseman’s 19th’ assist of the season. Wasn’t long though that Cale Makar tied it up on an Avs power play with 19th goal of the season, a minute into an Andy Greene cross-checking penalty.

The second period was another stalemate, and a little better showing from the Isles, and only one penalty from the refs. The Isles had decent chances but couldn’t convert on that with Erik Johnson in the box.

The Isles were in this thing. And as the second intermission neared, they had a chance go get the lead once again.

Josh Bailey missed a sitter with 1:25 left in the period, a rebound on his backhand at the top of the crease with a wide open net. The Isles vet scooped the backhand…inches wide. There has rarely been a more appropriate moment for fans to sing his song.

Third Period: Things blow up

With the game Varlamov had through the first two periods — 35 shots, 34 saves — it’s a crime what happened next. Most times this season, they give him no run support. This time they gave him no defensive support, then added some late goals to almost add insult to the injury.

Sebastian Aho took a hooking penalty two minutes into the third that the Isles somehow killed off, thanks to some great work from Varlamov. But just after the penalty expired, and after Varly made a ridiculous backdoor save, he overcommitted to challenge Makar. With Varlamov scooting and scooting out toward the left wing faceoff circle, Makar had two passing options on the other side. Gabriel Landeskog received, dropped to Nathan MacKinnon, whose shot went into the open net that Varly still nearly got back to cover.

That was the beginning of a landslide. The Avs scored three more times in the next 4:21. J.T. Compher snapped a quick and perfect top-corner shot off a feed from the corner, with Oliver Wahlstrom double-covering the wrong guy. Makar then scored his 20th, sneaking down behind Matt Martin, and Devon Toews got his 12th with a wide open look coming in from the left point.

It was 5-1 just 8:27 into a period that began 1-1, and the fans were restless.

Three minutes later, the Isles were back on the power play and scored a pride-save, Lee’s second on the backhand after another nice Dobson feed.

Just 1:30 later, Casey Cizikas brought them to 5-3 after Kyle Palmieri hit the post. The fans came back around and life returned to the building.

That was basically the end of the surge though. The Isles had a later power play, pulled Varlamov for a sixth attacker, and worked the puck well but didn’t really set up lethal shots. A minute after the power play expired, Brock Nelson finally made it 5-4 with 27 seconds left.

At least they kind of made a game of it.

Up Next

It’s a couple of open days now before the Isles play back-to-back Thursday and Friday as the Blue Jackets and Jets visit for the beginning of three games in four nights.