It was like the New York Islanders played two different games against the Colorado Avalanche. The game was tied at one entering the third period and looked like it would be a goaltending duel, but the Avalanche scored five unanswered goals and held on to win 5-4. The Islanders lost a tough game and now have only 21 wins in 53 games this season.
The Avalanche reminded the Islanders not only why they are the best team in the NHL, with the most points in the league, but of their talented offense. Colorado scored four goals and displayed the importance of speed and puck movement in all three zones to overwhelm New York.
Islanders’ Defense Unravels
The Islanders’ defensive unit has been a strength in recent seasons, and this game was no exception. Adam Pelech cut off angles to the net for star scorers like Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, while Noah Dobson impacted all three zones. Unfortunately, it was not enough as the Avalanche overwhelmed the defense and continued to not only keep the puck in the Islanders’ zone but also create open shots with quick passes and relentless shots on the net.
The third period was when the Isles’ defense unraveled altogether, but throughout the game, the Avalanche controlled possession of the puck and found open ice. Moreover, the Islanders missed assignments in the defensive zone and allowed open skaters near the net to find easy scoring chances – whether it was MacKinnon on the top line or defensemen Cale Makar, who scored a team-high two goals to lead the 5-4 victory. The Islanders have now allowed four goals or more in three of their last four games and are suddenly costing the team in the middle of a crucial stretch of the season.
Semyon Varlamov started his third game since the All-Star break against his former team. The hope was for him to allow fewer than four goals for the first time since the break and, more importantly, help solidify the Islanders’ goaltending duo along with Ilya Sorokin, a strength of the team. The Avalanche generated 49 shots on the net but, throughout the game, were denied easy scoring chances by the 33-year-old goaltender, despite scoring five goals.
Varlamov made 44 saves and, through the first two periods of play, kept the Islanders in the game with plenty of remarkable saves. The third period was when the Avalanche shots started to overwhelm him as their potent offense piled on the goals, with four in the third period. However, his performance was a much-needed bounce back for the veteran. It’s unclear if he will be a part of the Islanders roster in the future, but he proved he can still play at a high level for any Stanley Cup-contending team.
Dobson & Lee Provide Offense
One bright spot was the continued offensive production from Anders Lee in the center of the offensive zone and Dobson from the point. Lee found the back of the net for the Islanders’ first two goals, both off of Dobson passes, as he waited for the puck to find him near the net. New York’s captain has 16 goals on the season and continues to make his mark as one of the best finishers on the team, finding the back of the net with great instincts.
Meanwhile, Dobson continues to make his mark from the blue line as the best scoring defenseman on the team. The two assists were a testament to the young defenseman’s vision and ability to create the open shot near the net with quick puck movement. He now has 10 goals and 20 assists on the season and continues to emerge as one of the best young defensemen in the game with great play in both the offensive and defensive zones, helping turn defense into offense.
Other Takeaways From the 5-4 Loss
With the Islander pulling Varlamov and desperate for goals, Brock Nelson found an open shot in the offensive zone to score his 21st of the season. It was another goal in a remarkable season for Nelson, who leads the team but it was too little too late as the Avalanche held on for the 5-4 victory. New York played hard and fought back against one of the best teams in the league but came up short in another tough defeat.
The Islanders’ next two games are on back-to-back nights against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Winnipeg Jets. Like the Islanders, both opponents are on the outside of the playoff picture, eagerly trying to make up ground in the standings, and will be tough matchups as a result.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.