Nearly devastated by a game-tying goal that was scored with four seconds left in regulation, the Islanders began the overtime period hungry to help goaltender Kevin Poulin earn his first NHL win. They succeeded as John Tavares scored a beautiful goal with 1:08 remaining in the overtime period to solidify a 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
“I tried to originally beat him (Craig Anderson) coming around the net, but he poked it away,” Tavares said. “I took a peak over my shoulder and though cutting back towards the net would be the best opportunity. We made it 2-on-1 with me and Matt (Moulson) and the defenseman stayed with Matt, so I took it and rolled up. It was a fluky one, but I’ll take it after that empty net chance I had and missed.”
The Islanders win didn’t come without a fight.
“This is a game they (the Avalanche) thought they should have won, but our guys, they battled,” Capuano said. “Our guys didn’t quit. That’s a great sign of belief in our hockey team right now. Kevin Poulin did a good job for us.”
The Islanders had to battle back as they trailed by two goals just 1:47 after the opening faceoff. Milan Hejduk scored his first goal of the afternoon just 45 seconds into the opening faceoff and David Koci returned for a rebound goal just 1:02 later.
“The first goal was a faceoff goal that they scored and 23 (Hejduk) got loose and it deflected off our defensemen,” Capuano said. “The second one was just a deflection so he (Poulin) didn’t really have any chance on the first two. He played pretty good the rest of the way for us.”
The Islanders responded with three straight power play goals to take a 3-2 lead. Before the puck dropped at Pepsi Center on Saturday afternoon, Colorado held the leagues worst home penalty kill ranking with 72.2 percent and by the end of the second period, the Islanders successfully keep the Avalanche at the bottom.
“It was important for us,” Capuano said about scoring on the power play. “We knew that they (the Avalanche) would come hard on their PK. They have some quick forwards and we found some seams, we went to the net and we were fortunate enough to get those goals.”
Goaltender Craig Anderson #41 of the Colorado Avalanche makes a save against Jeremy Colliton #37 of the New York Islanders at the Pepsi Center on January 8, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Tavares said he was happy to see Colliton play so well.
“It’s great to see a guy come up and really contribute like that in all areas of the game,” Tavares said. “Not just the two goals… but just all around offensively, defensively, he was tremendous for us.”
At 12:59 of the first period, Comeau scored from outside the left faceoff circle to tie the score at two and give the Islanders an even slate to start the second period. Milan Jurcina and Jack Hillen assisted.
Colliton scored his first goal at 5:52 of the first when he knocked in a Jon Sim deflection from Andrew MacDonald’s slap shot at the point.
“It’s exciting to get this opportunity,” Colliton said. “I was able to get the bounce on the first goal and it was a great play by Bails (Bailey) on the second goal. I got put in that position and it’s nice to actually do something.”
This was Colliton’s 43rd NHL game, and luckily for him, his parents made the trip from Calgary to see what was most likely his best NHL game. It was the first time his parents had seen him play in the NHL.
The Avalanche game-tying goal was unexpected. With 1:46 remaining in regulation, they pulled goaltender Craig Anderson to take a 6-on-5 man advantage. As they increased their pressure in the offensive zone, Hejduk scored his second goal to tie the score at three when Poulin’s stick got caught in the net and the puck bounced off his shoulder before going in the net.
“I was pretty disappointed,” Poulin said about the goal. “I didn’t know how much time was left, but I saw there were four seconds. It happened. They had six (men on the ice). They made a good play. They crashed the net, but we played as a team in overtime and we scored.”
Poulin continued, “It hit my shoulder and went in the net. That’s why I was a little more disappointed, because I almost had it.”
While Poulin may have been a little shaky in his first NHL start, he quickly regrouped to make 34 saves on the 37 shots he faced to generate a .946 save percentage and 1.53 goals against average.
“He was great especially later on,” Tavares said about Poulin’s goaltending. “Our first period, he made some great saves and the whole game power play late in the third made some key saves. He stayed calm and battled hard but great for us.”
The Islanders will complete their Western Conference road trip when they face the Blackhawks at Chicago Stadium on Sunday night. But with three wins thus far, the Islanders will finish the road trip above 500.