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Grabner's goal in OT extends Islanders' road streak

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The road has turned into a comfortable place for the New York Islanders, who defeated the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in overtime Friday at Pepsi Center for their sixth straight win away from home.

"We're battling, we're playing hard," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, whose team lost 10 consecutive on the road earlier in the season. "Tonight, we had 20 guys going. Not for the 60 minutes, but we picked it up when we had to pick it up. That's what I liked about our team tonight.

"We've been a decent road team. Simple hockey maybe, and doing the right things. Goaltending has been pretty good for us. Our special teams on the road over the last two weeks have been good."

Kevin Poulin stopped 30 shots and Michael Grabner scored at 1:46 of overtime to give the Islanders (17-22-7) their third win in a row and sixth in seven games.

Grabner skated through a crowded goalmouth into the corner, where he almost lost the puck before reversing direction. He moved into the slot and fired a shot past Semyon Varlamov for his second goal in two games.

"The puck bounced a little bit," Grabner said. "I don't know if my stick got caught on the boards or the ref there. I almost lost it and couldn't control the puck, but I got it back in the corner and the guys opened up some room by driving to the net and I got a chance to shoot from the hash marks."

The Islanders are 8-0-2-1 in their past 11 games against Colorado. The Avalanche's last regulation win against the Islanders was 1-0 on Nov. 16, 2001.

Colorado (27-12-5) completed a seven-game homestand with a 4-1-2 record. The Avalanche visit the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

"I thought our guys played well on this homestand," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "It was a dangerous one. You wanted to pick up as many points as possible and I think 10 out of 14 is pretty good. It was a hard-fought game. Unfortunately we were on the wrong side of the game,

but I thought we did a lot of good things out there. We battled and defensively we played well. We didn't give them too many chances."

The Avalanche kept high-scoring forwards John Tavares and Thomas Vanek off the scoresheet, but they couldn't solve Poulin after rookie Nathan MacKinnon broke a scoreless tie at 18:15 of the second period.

"Unfortunately we couldn't get the goal that would have given us a 2-0 lead," Roy said.

The Islanders tied the game 1-1 at 4:28 of the third period on a goal by Brock Nelson, who scored from the slot after a pass from Calvin de Haan deflected off Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit's stick.

"That's how we were playing last year; down or up, our mood didn't change," Grabner said of the come-from-behind win. "At the beginning of the year it got in our heads a bit, but now if we get scored on we just go out there and keep playing our game and it's been working. We keep coming back from behind and finding ways to win games."

Poulin made a number of tough saves, including one against Cody McLeod at 8:20 of the third period after McLeod stole the puck from Ryan Strome in the New York end and drove to the net.

"We played the way we needed to play," Poulin said. "We were down a goal last game (a 5-3 road win Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs) and we came back. We know we can win if we have the lead or not."

MacKinnon used his speed to open the scoring. After taking a pass from Benoit at his blue line, MacKinnon blew past defenseman Matt Donovan, cut to the net, went to his forehand and beat Poulin low to the glove side.

"It was between my glove and the pad," Poulin said. "It was a really good shot. There wasn't much space there. Sometimes you have to give credit to the player."

The goal was MacKinnon's fifth in the past four games, ninth in 13 games, and 15th for the season, tying injured San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl for the goal-scoring lead among NHL rookies. MacKinnon leads all rookies in scoring with 29 points.

"I saw him (Donovan) stop when I got the puck and it kind of made my eyes bulge," MacKinnon said. "He stepped up on the play because it was a dump-in. He got caught a little flat-footed. Thankfully I was able to go and score. Poulin played a really solid game for them and Varly is playing well, as usual."

Varlamov made a stop against de Haan one minute before MacKinnon scored. De Haan took a shot from the right point with Tavares in front looking for a tip or deflection. Varlamov fell on his back to keep the puck from crossing the goal line.

Both teams went 0-for-2 on power plays.

Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie was shaken up in the third period with an undisclosed injury and finished the game, but Roy isn't sure if he'll be able to play Saturday against the Wild.

The Avalanche recalled defenseman Karl Stollery from the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League in case Barrie can't play. Stollery has five goals and six assists in 28 games with Lake Erie.

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