ELMONT, N.Y. — Mikko Rantanen provided the game-winning goal off an Adam Pelech turnover 7:47 into the third period as the juggernaut Colorado Avalanche kept rolling along in the 2023-24 season, defeating the New York Islanders 7-4 on Tuesday night at UBS Arena.
The win was the Avalanche’s 15th-straight regular-season road victory dating back to last season, which set a new NHL record.
“We had a couple of breakdowns that are uncharacteristic and certainly uncharacteristic of certain players,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “It’s early in the season. We have many games left and we will look forward to making the corrections.”
Overturning an Islanders one-goal lead with two goals in 13.2 seconds within the final minute of the second period, Rantanen’s winner — he had three assists on the night, as well — came just 3:07 after Anders Lee equalized with a brilliant solo effort in the Avalanche zone. But an ability to stick with Colorado is a mere consolation prize for New York (2-2-1), which has now lost each of its last three games.
Ryan Johansen, who scored twice in the win, and an errant Brock Nelson pass that went the length of the ice into the back of the net, were added empty-netters in the final minute.
The Avalanche could have very well run the Islanders out of the rink in the first period alone, outshooting them 17-6 in the opening 20 minutes. Yet they only would emerge with a one-goal lead despite beating Ilya Sorokin twice.
Just 21 seconds after a Lee interference penalty, the Avalanche got on the board via the power play 5:19 into the game when Johansen floated a one-timer past Sorokin.
“I thought the first period we started slowly because we took two penalties within the first six minutes,” Lambert said. “That’s a team over there with a very good power play and you get yourself on your heels real early doing that.”
The Islanders netminder, who made 35 saves on the night, would come up with a pair of massive saves over the next five minutes, first denying a Nathan MacKinnon chance from the left goal line with a sprawling paddle save before a lunging toe save denied a Ross Colton one-timer at the left post.
Out of nothing, the Islanders found an equalizer on just their second shot on goal of the night when Cal Clutterbuck — promoted from the fourth line to the third just seconds earlier — redirected a Noah Dobson point shot past the red-hot Alexandar Georgiev (27 saves) at the 10:03 mark of the period.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of sticking with it, honestly,” Clutterbuck said. “Other than the first 10 minutes, I think we had just as many moments if not more than they did. But still, you don’t want to spot a team like that a lead.”
Colorado star blueliner Cale Makar did as Cale Makar does, taking the puck himself on a rush into the New York zone, blowing by defenseman Ryan Pulock, and roofing a backhander over Sorokin’s shoulder to regain a Colorado lead with 7:08 to go in the frame.
The Islanders, however, would not go away, firing off two goals early in the second period to take an improbable lead.
On the power play, Kyle Palmieri stuffed a close-range class under Georgiev to tie things up at the 2:56 mark of the period — just the Islanders’ second power-play goal of the season coming against an Avalanche penalty kill that allowed one goal in its first five games this season.
All but 2:59 later, Simon Holmstrom gave the Islanders the lead when Simon Holmstrom sniped his first goal of the season, lasering a wrister bar-down from the right circle.
Sorokin provided another highlight-reel-worthy save with just over 10 minutes gone in the second, stoning Johansen with the sliding pad on a breakaway, but he was undone by a lazy final minute in the period, which evaporated the Islanders’ lead.
“We came into the second period and had a real good push,” Lambert said. “And then there was a stretch of however many seconds that turned he game around for them.”
Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram, given ample time to pick out his spot as he listed in from the point, sent a wrister into the top-left corner of the net to tie the game with 42 seconds to go. Just 13.2 seconds later lackadaisical Islanders play in their defensive zone allowed Nathan MacKinnon to snap a wrister home to restore a Colorado lead going into the second intermission.
“I think they got the one and that’s a moment where you really have to find a way to get in and close it out,” Pulock said. “We gave up the other one and that obviously hurts going into an intermission like that when you have the lead and right away, you’re trailing.”
Lee tied the game 4:40 into the third period with a solo, gargantuan effort. After being knocked down near the right boards of the Colorado zone, the Islanders captain was able to retain possession while getting up, shrug off a crosscheck, meander toward the middle of the dots, and fire a wrister over the glove of Georgiev.
But the Avalanche would punch right back at the 7:47 mark when Pelech’s shot at the Colorado blueline was blocked, sparking a 2-on-1 the other way. Rantanen finished through the five-hole of Sorokin — the fifth goal against that Pelech was on the ice for.
The Islanders were given a lifeline when Tomas Tatar was whistled for a trip and a high stick on the same play, rewarding the hosts with a four-minute power play with 9:54 to go in the game. However, Mathew Barzal canceled out two of those minutes when he boarded Andrew Cogliano just seconds later. With the 1:17 they had left upon Barzal’s exit, they could do little with it.