NEW YORK — Even when they’re not playing their best, the Colorado Avalanche find ways to keep winning.
Ryan Johansen scored twice, Cale Makar had a goal and an assist, and Bowen Byram, Nathan MacKinnon and Ross Colton also scored for Colorado, which won its sixth straight to open the season. Valeri Nichushkin had two assists, and Alexandar Georgiev stopped 27 shots to also improve to 6-0-0 this season.
After Rantanen put the Avalanche ahead with under eight minutes remaining, they sealed the win with two empty-net goals in the final minute.
“It was a shooter’s night on both sides, a little bit of a strange game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “But I did like the way we capitalized late. … We are fortunate to be 6-0. The guys realize that. We are still trying to improve.”
The Avalanche’s winning streak, which includes the last 11 road games of last season, topped the previous mark of 14 set by Buffalo bridging the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. They also matched the 2013-14 team for the best start (6-0-0) since moving to Colorado before the 1995-96 season — one win behind the 1985-86 Quebec Nordiques for tops in franchise history.
“We had a lot of chances and we were rewarded with a team win,” Colton said. “This was another step in the right direction. For us, it’s all about focus.”
Cal Clutterbuck had a goal and an assist, Kyle Palmieri and Simon Holmstrom also scored, and Noah Dobson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau each had two assists as the Islanders lost their third straight (0-2-1). Ilya Sorokin finished with 34 saves.
“Down one with a minute left,” Anders Lee said, “that’s a good hockey team over there and we did a lot of things tonight that were good but not enough obviously.”
Lee tied the score 4-4 early in the third period with a persistent effort. After getting knocked down by Johansen in the offensive zone and losing the puck, the Islanders’ captain got up, stole the puck back from Johansen, skated to the high slot and fired a shot past Georgiev for his first of the season at 4:40.
Rantanen then gave the Avalanche their fourth lead of the night as he beat Sorokin from the right circle and for his team-high fifth of the season with 7:47 remaining.
Johansen got an empty-netter with 1 minute to go and Colton got credit for another with 31 seconds left when Brock Nelson‘s backward pass off a faceoff went all the way down the ice into the open net.
“We were not perfect but our confidence is growing as a group,” Johansen said. “We can execute better and we will keep working on sharpening that up.”
Trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes, the Islanders tied it early in the second period as Palmieri got a pass down low from Mathew Barzal, skated toward the middle in front of Georgiev, turned a fired a shot past the goalie for his second at 2:56. It was the Islanders’ second goal on 12 power plays this season.
Holmstrom then put the Islanders ahead at 4:05 as he beat Georgiev from the left circle for his first.
The Avalanche took the lead with two goals in an 11-second span in the final minute of the period. First, Byram fired a shot from up high between the circles through traffic with 42 seconds remaining. MacKinnon then put Colorado ahead when he beat Sorokin from the left circle.
“The meat of the second period was great, bad minute in the end,” Lee said. “Couple of bad bounces and they buried their shots.”
The Avalanche outshot the Islanders 17-6 in the opening period and got on the scoreboard first just 21 seconds into their first power play of the night. Johansen got a cross-ice pass from Rantanen and scored on a one-timer from the left circle at 5:19 of the first period for his third of the season.
The Islanders tied it just past the midpoint of the period as Clutterbuck deflected Dobson’s shot from center point past Georgiev for his first of the season.
Makar put the Avalanche back ahead as he skated into the left circle and put a backhander past Sorokin for his third with 7:08 left in the opening period.