The Islanders were in a position to win the opening game of their three-game Western trip, though were probably fortunate to be there, and ultimately succumbed to an overtime loss on a 4-on-3 power play goal in Denver.
The Islanders had a 3-1 lead in the second and a 4-3 lead in the third, but each time the Avalanche came back to tie — the final time on another power play midway through the third period.
Of perhaps greater concern, Semyon Varlamov left the game with an injury in the first period after facing 12 shots. Varlamov missed time last week for “maintenance” and at one point was a fear to miss this trip entirely, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him in net tonight and it’s presumably another setback that could require more time off for the 35-year-old.
Adding to the losses, Robert Bortuzzo left the game in the second period after a hard check.
- Pierre Engvall was back after another one-game scratch, and he scored the opening goal using his speed to catch up to a nifty Brock Nelson backhand pass out of the zone. I’m sure the coaching staff will be like “Yeah, see, message sent” but...would prefer they coach him in-game rather than remove his skillset from the lineup.
- Lane Lambert on Engvall: “I thought he skated, he competed. I thought he was better. ...He has to do that consistently.”
A quick look at Engvall's goal pic.twitter.com/yEiHjNv2DQ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 3, 2024
- Nelson also scored, with a great solo play early on a power play as he split the world-class D pair of Cale Makar and Devon Toews. It was a fun bit of deception as those two assumed he’d pull up after gaining the blueline to set up a traditional PP structure; instead he drove the net and delivered one of his patented off-stride shots to surprise Alexandar Georgiev through the five hole. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.
- Noah Dobson ice time count: 28:38.
- Simon Holmstrom gave us another look at his deceptive wrist shot, unleashing a high one off the rush (though not shorthanded this time!) to make it 3-1 early in the second:
LOOK AT THE FLICKA DA WRIST! pic.twitter.com/04nuZlRkUe— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 3, 2024
The Avalanche had a dubious claim to a regulation win when Nathan MacKinnon — who’d score the OT winner after quick puck movement 32 seconds into OT — jammed at Ilya Sorokin with 22 seconds to go. No goal awarded, but the Islanders got a holding penalty on Scott Mayfield (vs. Valeri Nichushkin, who had two goals and a big night), leaving them short to finish regulation and begin OT, too.
Lane Lambert: “I thought there was moments when we probably could have got two (points), but we have to understand, as a group collectively, about managing the puck better.”
In general, #Isles Lane Lambert very displeased with team's puck management.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 3, 2024
He wasn’t a fan of a few penalty calls, noting the call on Mike Reilly was “terrible.”
#Isles Lane Lambert made it very clear, though, he did not like the interference call against Reilly. Didn't sound like he was a big fan of the hold on Mayfield, either.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 3, 2024
Overall: Yes, they were in position to win, but I can’t help feeling fortunate they came away with a point from a tough opponent and after some mid-game injuries.
This dangerous road trip continues Thursday in Arizona before finishing in Vegas on Saturday night.