Semyon Varlamov's first game against his former team went about as well as he could have possibly hoped for on Monday night.
Varlamov pitched a 32-save shutout against the Colorado Avalanche - the team he played eight seasons for - and provided the backbone for the New York Islanders' 1-0 win. The shutout was Varlamov's second of the season and 27th of his career - but meant a little bit more doing it against his former club.
"It feels good, I'm not going to lie," Varlamov said. "To beat Colorado 1-0 is huge. That's probably the best offensive team in the NHL."
Video: COL@NYI: Varlamov shuts out Avalanche
The 31-year-old Russian played it cool beforehand, saying he was going to treat Monday like any other game, but admitted afterwards that the game meant a little bit more and that it was strange to line up across from the Avs.
"Just by his expression after the game, you could tell that it meant a lot to him," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "He's got a lot of friends over there and a lot of real good history over there. The first time you play your old teammates, it's different, it's a little bit weird. You want to get the win and he did everything he could tonight and he was fantastic."
Varlamov wasn't fazed at all by going up against the league's highest-scoring team, who came in averaging 3.71 goals-per-game, and stood firm with a 0-0 scoreline going deep into the contest.
Video: COL@NYI: Varlamov shuts the door on Graves
He robbed defenseman Ryan Graves on a two-on-one rush in the second period and held firm with his pad to stop Gabriel Landeskog's stuff-in attempt in the third. Varlamov showed patience by staying with Colorado's leading scorer, Nathan MacKinnon, on a chance late in the third, capping off the impressive evening. When it was all said and done, he was named the game's first star.
"Varly just stood on his head," Anders Lee said. "That's a talented team over there."
With the win, Varlamov improved to 15-5-3 with a 2.30 GAA and a .924 SV%. The victory also snapped the Isles' two-game losing streak and a four-game winless streak at the Coliseum.
Video: COL@NYI: Lee wires home wrist shot
LEE SCORES GAME-WINNING GOAL:
The goals still aren't coming in bunches for the Islanders, but on Monday night, one was enough, coming via the captain.
Lee broke a scoreless deadlock at 6:54 of the third period, snapping a wrister low glove past Pavel Francouz. The goal was Lee's 12th of the season and snapped a five-game scoreless drought.
"They haven't come easy for us, but we just stick with it," Lee said. "You can't sulk or just get down, you just have to keep going. That next opportunity might be the one and you have to be ready to go. Just keep going at it, keep grinding it out and you'll find a way to get one."
ISLES WIN KEY OFFSIDE CHALLENGE:
Trotz said that if Varlamov was the first star, then his video coaches - Matt De Mado and Corey Smith - were 1B. That's because the Isles eye in the sky helped with a crucial offside challenge to successfully overturn Nikita Zadorov's would-be icebreaker.
"As soon as the puck came over and they started getting a little bit of zone time, both our video guys they said it was offside," Trotz said. "They were very adamant that they were offside and they've done a great job."
It wasn't an easy call on the ice, as the puck fluttered about 20 feet above the Isles' blue line with Andre Burakovsky entering the zone. Overturning the goal provided the Isles with an immediate momentum boost and wound up being a big turning point in a game with little offense.
"Really if they score that first goal, I don't know if we have that same mindset," Trotz said. "If Varly was first star, they might be 1B."
The challenge was the Isles' third successful offside challenge this season.
PK STANDS TALL:
The Islanders penalty kill went two-for-two on Monday night, holding the Avalanche without a shot on either occasion.
The Islanders wrap up their back-to-back set on Tuesday night at New Jersey. Puck drop is 7 p.m.