The New York Islanders came within inches of completing a dramatic, third-period comeback, but lost to the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Trailing 3-2 in the final minutes of regulation, Brock Nelson’s wrap-around attempt fluttered across the goal line and trickled just wide of the goal. The Avalanche then added two empty-net goals to ice the game.
“There’s a lot of frustration,” Travis Hamonic said. “Maybe another five minutes we get it, but the game's played in 60 minutes and that's the way it goes unfortunately. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth going into the break.”
The Avalanche led 3-0 after two periods, but John Tavares and Lubomir Visnovksy scored power-play goals – both on five-on-three’s – 57 seconds apart in the final frame. The Islanders mounted pressure over the final seven minutes, culminating with Nelson’s dramatic play.
“It’s a tough go and it’s frustrating not getting to where we want to be,” Tavares said. “Clearly as each game goes by, the window gets smaller and smaller.”
The Islanders got out to a hot start, outshooting the Avalanche 8-1 out of the gate en route to a 13-6 margin after 20 minutes. Despite the shot advantage, Nathan MacKinnon’s 22nd was the only goal of the period; a goal that was contested by the Islanders because Gabriel Landeskog crashed into Nabokov, but was upheld by the officials.
Thomas Vanek seemingly tied the score 1:17 into the second period, jamming the puck past a sprawling Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but the officials ruled that the whistle had blown prior to the puck crossing the line.
Matt Duchene opened a 3-0 lead with consecutive goals – including the eventual winner – in a 2:44 span during the second period. First, Duchene came streaking down the wing, cut hard to the net and squeezed the puck through Nabokov. Less than three minutes later, he ripped a one-timer over Nabokov’s shoulder, establishing the three-goal lead on Colorado’s 14th shot.
“If you go back and look at the chances we had during the first two periods…” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We had some unbelievable chances. Give their goaltender credit. He played extremely well.”
Nabokov stopped 22 shots – including all nine in the third period – in the loss, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 30 saves in the win. Landeskog and Paul Stastny scored Colorado’s empty-netters.
The Islanders now enter the Olympic break and retake the ice on Feb. 19. Three Isles, Tavares, Vanek and Michael Grabner, will all participate in the Winter Games. The Islanders first game after the break is Feb. 27 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Nassau Coliseum.
NOTES: Travis Hamonic returned to the Islanders lineup after missing 12 games with an upper-body injury… Hamonic played 19:07 TOI… Andrew MacDonald led all Islanders with 24:55 TOI… John Tavares and Frans Nielsen each had a team-high five shots… The Islanders officially did not clear Lubomir Visnovsky to play in the Olympics after the game.