Avalanche top Islanders, send 2017 out with a bang

The Colorado Avalanche ended 2017 with an exclamation point.

There were actual on-ice fireworks postgame to celebrate the coming new year, but they struggled to match the offensive fireworks Colorado’s provided during the game.

In a complete beatdown of visiting New York, the Avalanche overwhelmed the Islanders with a torrent of shots, winning 6-1.

In the second period alone, the Avs outshot the Islanders 23-7 in a show of full force, netting four of those to completely blow the game open. By the end of the night, the shots differential ballooned to 48-28.

As the calendar turns to 2018 the Avs at 41 points have just seven fewer points than they accumulated all last season, an undeniable sign of the strides they’ve made this year.

“There’s progress for sure,” head coach Jared Bednar said following Sunday’s win. “You take a game like tonight and we build a lead, we do a lot of good things: We had some puck luck around the net, we got hungry in the interior of the ice and scored some goals.

“Even in the third period, we kind of got away from our game for a couple minutes, but the things that our guys are seeing on the bench are leadership — everybody’s chiming in with their puck decisions – -and talk on the bench, talk on the ice. They’re positive signs that we’re trying to do the right things and play the right way all the time, not just when games are tight.

With that kind of focus from Bednar’s squad, Islander goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss didn’t stand much of a chance. In the other net, Colorado’s Jonathan Bernier was nearly impenetrable.

A solid defensive performance from his teammates helped.

“[The defense] did a lot, we didn’t have too many on-man rushes, no two-on-ones, breakaways,” Bernier said. “When you do that most of the night, you’re going to end up on the winning side.”

Throughout the first period, both teams remained fairly steady on defense as the Avs pushed the pace on the offensive side. After several solid attempts to get the puck in the back of the net, Patrik Nemeth finally came through for Colorado when he netted one from a ways out nine and half minutes into play.

Although they had plenty of opportunities to score again, with 12 shots on goal in the first frame, the Avs couldn’t increase their lead. The Islanders couldn’t capitalize on any of the eight shots they hurled at Bernier. The Avs led 1-0 at the end of one.

Five and a half minutes into the second period, following a series of shots on goal from Colorado, the Avs finally broke through again when Matt Nieto ricocheted the puck from behind the net and over the right leg of Halak.

Seven minutes later, Carl Soderberg kept the momentum going for the Avs when he punched one into the nylon, putting them up 3-0. With three and half minutes left, Gabriel Landeskog notched yet another goal for the home team. At that point, Islanders head coach Doug Weight was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct for using some choice words towards an official. Two minutes later, Landeskog scored again. At the end of the second frame, the Avs led 5-0 and showed no signs of slowing down.

With seven and a half minutes left in the game, New York’s Josh Bailey finally got his team on the board with a side shot past Bernier. But no sooner said did Erik Johnson respond on the other end of the ice, just 40 seconds later. In the end, the Avs skated away with a huge win to close out the 2017 portion of the season.

“We know that we have scoring all throughout our line, no problem, and obviously the way that Carl’s line was playing tonight, that kind of set the bar high for the rest of us,” Landeskog said. “Obviously, Bernie made some solid saves and some big ones when we needed them. We just have to keep doing the little things right.”

With the win, the Avs improved to 19-16-3 and next host Winnipeg on Tuesday, Jan. 2 at Pepsi Center. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.