The young New York Islanders got off to a rough start and hit plenty of bumps in the road during their Saturday matinee in Colorado. But in the end, a beautiful goal from in close by John Tavares clinched a 4-3 overtime win over the Avalanche.
Tavares got the puck down low, drove to the net and lifted a wrist shot that deflected off something before beating Avs goalie Craig Anderson up high with 1:08 remaining in the extra session.
“I was ecstatic,” Tavares said after the game. “I didn’t see much. I just tried to drive it to the net. It might have even hit Anderson’s stick, but it might have hit the defenseman’s stick.”
The win improved the Islanders record to 3-1-0 on their western road trip which concludes tomorrow evening in Chicago. Overall, the Isles are now 8-2-1 in their last 11 games.
Rookie goalie Kevin Poulin made 34 saves to earn the victory in his first NHL start. The game didn’t get off to a good start for Poulin or the Islanders as goals by Milan Hejduk and David Koci in the first 1:47 of the game quickly made it 2-0 Avalanche.
Despite the early setbacks, Poulin kept his cool and didn’t allow another goal until the final four seconds of regulation time when Hejduk’s second goal of the game tied things up at 3-3 with Anderson off for a sixth attacker.
“I just kept focusing,” Poulin said. “I felt comfortable the whole game, just those first two goals. It’s the NHL – sometimes they’re great players, too.”
The Islanders used their power play to overcome the early two-goal deficit. Jeremy Colliton, who like Poulin was an emergency call-up from Bridgeport of the AHL for this game, scored two power play goals which were sandwiched between a hard blast on the power play by Blake Comeau which gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.
Overall, the Isles scored three goals on four chances with the man advantage. The Avs were 0-for-3. The Isles have now killed off their opponents’ last 13 power play chances.
“Probably the difference in the game was our special teams,” Isles Coach Jack Capuano said.
Colorado stormed back in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 13-5 and spending most of the final stanza in the New York zone. But Poulin turned the Avs away time and again until Hejduk’s dramatic game-tying goal sent the game to overtime in the waning seconds of the third period.
In the end, it was Tavares who came through in overtime. The first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft now has six goals and 14 points in his last 11 games.
While the Isles performance was uneven, the victory was a sweet one for this young team that overcame an early 2-0 deficit on the road and got big performances from young players who came through at critical times.
Trevor Gillies and Frans Nielsen were the Isles scratches. Nielsen is out with a groin injury while Gillies was a healthy scratch.
Colliton had one previous NHL goal which came on April 15, 2006 against the Penguins. He spent last season in the Swedish Elite League before rejoining the Isles organization. In 32 games with Bridgeport, Colliton has 8 goals and 16 points.
The win gave the Islanders a sweep of the Avalanche this season. New York defeated Colorado 5-2 at the Nassau Coliseum on October 16.