The New York Islanders held a 2-0 lead in the third period but had to settle for a 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The loss spoiled the Isles’ home opener before a sellout crowd of 16,170 at the Nassau Coliseum.
Lubomir Visnovsky and Matt Moulson scored for the Islanders while third period goals by Mark Letestu and Nick Foligno forced the extra session. Cam Atkinson scored the winner in the shootout for the Blue Jackets. Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for the Islanders while fellow Russian Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for Columbus.
The teams traded chances in a scoreless first period. The Islanders outshot Columbus 9-4. Although the Blue Jackets spent a lot of time in the New York zone, the Isles kept them on the perimeter and limited them to just four shots on net.
The Isles took control of the game in the second period and cashed in on Visnovsky’s power play tally at 8:17. Frans Nielsen passed the puck back to Visnovsky at the point and then headed to the front of the net to help screen Bobrovsky.
Captain John Tavares made a pretty pass to set up the Isles second goal at the 14:01 mark of the middle stanza. He found Moulson in front of the net and Moulson scored from his favorite spot just outside the crease to give the Isles a 2-0 lead.
“It was good work by Kyle [Okposo] on the wall,” Tavares said. “He did some battling. It was kind of a broken play off the faceoff…I had a good idea where Matty would be and I tried to surprise the defense and I just tried to make sure I got it on his tape.”
The Islanders led 2-0 after 40 minutes and seemed headed toward their second straight victory when the momentum turned in the third period. The Blue Jackets managed 12 shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of regulation, equaling the number they were limited to in the first two periods.
They finally got on the scoreboard on the power play when Letestu picked up a puck off a scramble in front of the Islanders goal and beat Nabokov at 7:45 of the third period.
That goal changed the momentum of the game. The crowd, which had been very vocal throughout the contest, grew quiet and the home team seemed to play a bit more tentatively. Columbus began getting more scoring chances and they finally got one when Nick Foligno scored from close range off a nice play by R.J. Umberger.
“I was a little disappointed in the third period,” Isles coach Jack Capuano said. “Things were going well until they ramped it up and we didn’t respond collectively as a group the way we needed to.”
To their credit, the Isles managed to bounce back and hold the Blue Jackets off the board for the rest of regulation time. Nabokov made some very strong saves to keep the game tied and he was matched by strong goaltending by Bobrovsky on the other end.
The Islanders had a chance to win it late when Jack Johnson was called for holding in the final minute of regulation time. The power play carried into overtime but Bobrovsky was able to foil several quality scoring chances.
In the shootout, Letestu scored in the second round for Columbus, but Moulson kept the Isles alive with a third-round goal. After Bobrovsky stopped Josh Bailey in the fourth round, Atkinson ended it with a fake that left Nabokov on the ice and the side of the net open for the winning tally.
“We’ve just got to learn to put it behind us and play the way we need to play,” forward Matt Martin said. “The positive is we’ve picked up points in both games. The negative side is we should have won that game tonight. There’s no excuse for us not to. But it’s early, we’ve got a lot of games ahead of us. We’ve got to learn our lesson from this.”
The Islanders return to action Tuesday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes.
Casey Cizikas went 11-3 on faceoffs for 78.5 percent.
Matt Martin had seven hits to lead all players.
The first assist for Tavares was the 250th point of his NHL career.