The New York Islanders played one of their best games of the season and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 at Barclays Center Tuesday night. Josh Bailey scored his 100th career goal while Thomas Greiss made 21 saves to earn the victory. The Islanders are now 3-0-1 under interim head coach Doug Weight.
“Top to bottom this was one of our best efforts of the year,” Weight said. “Every line had a spark plug.”
The Islanders once again got off to a slow start and didn’t register a shot on goal for more than six minutes. Columbus controlled the puck for most of the first half of the first period but the Islanders defense did limit their scoring chances.
Nick Foligno got the visitors on the board when he deflected home a rebound that trickled behind Greiss. The Blue Jackets had the puck in the Islanders zone for more than a minute before they finally scored at 8:55.
The Isles did improve their play as the opening period progressed. By the end of the first period, they had actually outshot the Jackets 9-8 although there were not many quality chances created by the offense in the opening 20 minutes.
The second period was the strongest overall for the Islanders and they evened the game at the 2:21 mark on a goal by Josh Bailey. Bailey attempted a centering pass which deflected in off the skate of a Columbus defenseman and behind Sergei Bobrovsky. The goal was the 100th of Bailey’s NHL career.
Nikolay Kulemin, who was inserted onto the top line after Anders Lee was sidelined with an illness, did a good job of creating traffic in front of the Columbus goal on the play.
“It wasn’t the prettiest goal but it’s all good,” Bailey said. “To be honest it wasn’t something I was stressed over. I was just going out and trying to play hockey, but it’s nice to get it out of the way.”
Kulemin scored a goal of his own at 16:29 of the middle stanza. Again, hard work in front of the opposing goal was the key to the score. The veteran forward backhanded the rebound of a shot by Calvin de Haan into the net and the Islanders led 2-1.
Overall, the Isles outshot the Blue Jackets 12-6 in the second period. The Isles defense really slowed Columbus down and prevented their high-powered offense from getting any pressure on Greiss.
“In the second period, we did a better job structure-wise,” forward Jason Chimera explained. “We didn’t let them get the red line. Their defensemen can really skate. I think for the most part we did a good job of holding them off. We made some adjustments during the game and that helped a little bit, too.”
The Islanders expected the Blue Jackets to make a push to start the third period, but Brock Nelson prevented that when he scored just 35 seconds into the final 2o minutes. Nelson let go a high wrist shot from the top of the circle that handcuffed Bobrovsky and made the score 3-1 Islanders. It was Nelson’s first goal in 10 games and his celebration showed how relieved he was to end the drought.
Chimera scored his 10th goal of the season when he intercepted the puck at center ice and gained speed as he entered the Columbus zone. Chimera let one go from between the circles that made the score 4-1 Islanders at 5:21 of the third period.
The Blue Jackets managed nine shots on goal in the final 20 minutes but most of those came after the Islanders already had command of the game. Cam Atkinson scored with 5:21 left in the game to make it a 4-2 game, but Columbus was unable to mount much pressure and the Islanders skated off with a satisfying 4-2 victory.
“I think we did a great job getting the puck out of our zone,” Weight said. “The first 10 minutes it wasn’t so but after that we were getting back hard and we were supporting the puck…Our gaps were incredible…We made some great decisions with the puck and we were on our toes.”
The Islanders continue their home stand Thursday night when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Barclays Center at 7:00 PM. That will be the Isles final game before the start of All-Star Weekend.
Official attendance was 11,419.
In addition to Anders Lee, Scott Mayfield and Anthony Beauvillier were scratched. Beauvillier is expected to be available Thursday night.
The Islanders offense has now scored four or more goals in 10 of their last 15 games.
Kulemin now has five points in his last five contests.