Despite suffering their first regulation loss in three weeks, the New York Islanders continue to play outstanding hockey on the penalty kill.
The same can be said lately of Colorado, and while the Avalanche have failed to capitalize on nearly every power play in their last nine games, they haven't been devastated by those failures entering Thursday night's matchup at Pepsi Center.
The Islanders (18-9-5) rode a 10-game point streak (8-0-2) into second place in the Metropolitan Division before matching a season worst for goals allowed in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Florida that was their first in regulation since Nov. 22. They also dropped back into third in the division behind the rival Rangers, who beat Edmonton 4-2.
"It's not the way you expect the streak to end," center Frans Nielsen told the team's official website. "Losing stinks, always does. We can't be happy just because we had 10 in a row with points, we have high expectations of ourselves every night."
Brock Nelson scored his 10th goal, but Jaroslav Halak had a rough night in net while facing only 16 shots. It was just the sixth time among the 66 career games in which he's allowed at least four goals that it took less than 20 shots to do it.
"I'm sure he'd like to have a few of those back," coach Jack Capuano said of Halak, who had gone 4-0-2 in his previous six starts.
Even though they allowed as many goals as they had in the prior three games combined, the Islanders shut the Panthers down on three power-play opportunities to improve to 23 for 24 over the last nine contests.
The Avalanche (15-16-1) have scored only once in their last 24 chances and may find it difficult to get going against New York, which ranks fourth with an 86.3 success rate on the kill and held them in check all three times in a 5-3 home win Nov. 30. Those struggles go back even further for the Avs, who went 1 for 13 in the last five meetings.
Halak wasn't in net Nov. 30 in Brooklyn, giving way to backup Thomas Greiss, who could again get the nod after Halak's poor performance Tuesday.
Halak, however, rebounded from his only other four-goal game this season with a 29-save shutout of Calgary on Oct. 26 and has won six of the last eight he's played right after allowing at least that many.
The Avalanche sit in the middle of the pack on the kill overall but have also been stellar in their last nine with a 20-of-22 mark to counter their absentee power play.
However, the weak man-advantage play hasn't done much to hurt Colorado, which got its sixth win in those nine contests with a 3-0 victory at Chicago on Tuesday that ended Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's franchise-record point streak at 26 games.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 29 shots for the Avs, who capped an unbeaten trip through Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago. Not only did Varlamov play a part in keeping Kane off the score sheet for the first time in two months, he also helped silence the Blackhawks' power play for just the 11th time this season.
"I thought we did a good job offensively, defensively, in the neutral zone," coach Patrick Roy said. "I liked our game tonight, and our goalie was really solid in key moments in the game."
Varlamov, who had 29 saves against the Islanders on Nov. 30, improved to 5-1-0 with a 1.16 goals-against average in his last six starts.