Varlamov, Lee lead Islanders to 1-0 win over Avalanche
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Semyon Varlamov didn’t have Monday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche circled on his calendar, but there was a noticeable excitement from the 31-year-old about playing against his former team.
Varlamov recorded his 27th career shutout in his first time facing the Avalanche since signing a four-year deal with the Islanders last summer. He was making his fifth straight start after alternating with Thomas Greiss during the first 36 games.
“Of course this one is a special one,” Varlamov said. “It was really weird; I’m not going to lie. It was very weird. But I guess I just tried to stay focused on my own things. I just tried to do my own job. I’m glad we won.”
Varlamov managed to make several key saves throughout the night, including a point-blank stop on Nathan MacKinnon in the closing minutes of the game. Jordan Eberle followed it up seconds later with a diving save to protect the net when Varlamov was caught out of position.
Philipp Francouz, had 32 saves for Colorado, which had won two straight entering the game and was shut out for just the second time this season. Francouz was making his first start since Dec. 27, when he allowed five goals in a 6-4 loss to Minnesota.
“That was the type of game we were expecting. We had some chances to capitalize and we didn’t,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “(Varlamov) was really good in their net and (Francouz) was good in our net. They controlled the play in the first, they controlled the play in the second. Tough to create scoring chances and when you had them, we didn’t capitalize on one. They did it once and we weren’t able to.”
The Islanders had lost two straight overall and four in a row at the Nassau Coliseum.
Lee broke a scoreless tie at 6:54 of the third period. Off a rush, the Islanders' captain came up the far side of the ice and fired off a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Francouz glove side.
Lee’s 12th goal of the year goal snapped the Islanders’ goal drought at 139:21. Brock Nelson had been the last Islanders player to find the back of the net, scoring the team’s lone goal last Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. New York was shut out 3-0 at Toronto on Saturday night.
“You want to get one for the boys,” Lee said about breaking the scoring drought. “We’ve all been gripping (our sticks) a little tightly and we’re in a 0-0 hockey game in the third period in our building. Just a good opportunity to win a game. Just to get one was a relief on everyone.”
Entering the contest, the Avalanche and Islanders had been trending in different directions in scoring. New York had one goal in the previous two contests, while Colorado had totaled 12 in its last two.
The Avalanche looked as though they had broken a scoreless tie in the middle of the second. Nikita Zadorov was able to beat Varlamov from the slot, but the goal was overturned after the Islanders successfully challenged the play for offsides.
“Both our video guys said it was offside. They were very adamant that it was offside,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said about the decision to challenge the goal. “Really if they score the first goal I don’t know if we have the same mindset. Varly was first star, but these guys might be 1B in that. That was huge for us.”
NOTES: Colorado made its first visit to the Nassau Coliseum since Nov. 11, 2014. The Islanders won 6-0 that night. ... The Islanders scratched F Ross Johnston and D Sebastian Aho. New York recalled Aho from AHL Bridgeport on Jan. 3 after announcing D Adam Pelech would miss the remainder of the season with an injury to his Achilles tendon. ... Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck missed his seventh game due to a cut on his wrist sustained at Boston on Dec. 19. ... Colorado's Samuel Girard (eight assists), Nathan MacKinnon (three goals, five assists) and Mikko Rantanen (four goals, one assist) each had three game point streaks snapped. ... The Avalanche scratched D Mark Barberio and F Vladislav Kamenev.
Avalanche: At New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Islanders: At New Jersey on Tuesday night.