Barzal, Varlamov Lead Islanders to 2-0 Win over Blue Jackets

NEW YORK — Mathew Barzal had a goal and an assist, Semyon Varlamov got his second shutout of the season, and the New York Islanders beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 Saturday night.

Anders Lee also scored to help the Islanders get a win in the return from an 0-2-1 California trip that ended their franchise-record 17-game point streak. Thomas Greiss started and made nine saves before leaving with 5:54 left in the first period. Varlamov came on and stopped all 30 shots he faced to earn his 27th career shutout.

Elvis Merzlikins finished with 25 saves as the 25-year-old Latvian fell to 0-3-3 in his rookie season for the Blue Jackets.

Columbus had a flurry of chances near the midpoint of the third, but couldn’t beat Varlamov, who drew chants of “Varly! Varly!” throughout the period. He stopped a try by Oliver Bjorkstrand from the middle, a shot by Seth Jones from the left circle and Gustav Nyquist’s attempt in front. Varlamov had a stick save on Nyquist in front with 8:42 left.

Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blue Jackets pulled Merzlikins with about 4 1/2 minutes left, and went on a power play with three minutes remaining for a 6-on-4 advantage, but couldn’t beat Varlamov.

Varlamov’s best save of the second was a glove stop on Bjorkstrand at 8:10, and he also denied Riley Nash on the doorstep about 1 1/2 minutes later to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard.

Barzal made it 2-0 as he skated up the left side, outraced Bjorkstrand on a breakaway, went toward the middle and then beat Merzlikins with a backhander with 3:59 left in the middle period.

Lee got the Islanders on the scoreboard just 1:18 in. Josh Bailey got a pass from Barzal on the right side of the goal and sent it back to Lee in the slot, and the captain fired it past Merzilikins for his sixth. It was Lee’s first goal since Nov.1, snapping an 11-game drought.

Anders Lee
New York Islanders congratulate left wing Anders Lee. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Lee nearly double the lead about 3 1/2 minutes in, but was denied by Merzlikins. Anthony Beauvillier had a chance six minutes later, but his shot on a rush from the right side was gloved by the Columbus goalie. Merzlikins made a great blocker save on a slap shot by Scott Mayfield with 7:44 left in the first, and stopped two shots by Casey Cizikas a minute later. Merzlikins also stopped a slap shot by Ryan Pulock with under six minutes to go.

Greiss then skated over to the Islanders bench and talked to coach Barry Trotz, who sent Varlamov in.

Greiss had made several nice stops, including on a backhander by Cam Atkinson 5 minutes in, a slap shot by Jones with under nine minutes left and a wraparound try by Bjorkstrand about 40 seconds later. Varlamov stopped all three shots he faced in the first, including a tip by Pierre-Luc Dubois with 1:24 to go.

Thomas Greiss New York Islanders
Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sonny Milano got one past Varlamov with 1:05 left, but it hit the crossbar.


Barzal ended a three-game point-scoring drought, and now has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last 10 games. … New York improved to 8-2-1 when scoring first, and 12-0-1 when leading after two periods. … Bailey was whistled for interference on Jones with 3:01 left with the game’s only penalty. … The Islanders won the first meeting, 3-2 at Columbus on Oct. 19. The teams play two more times, Dec. 23 at the Nassau Coliseum and March 20 at Columbus. … The Blue Jackets had scored first in 10 straight games. … Columbus D Zach Werenski left the game early in the first period. He was down on the ice for several minutes before skating off while favouring his right shoulder and headed straight to the dressing room. The Blue Jackets later announced he would not return. … The Blue Jackets fell to 0-8-3 when giving up the first goal, and 3-9-0 when trailing after two periods. … The Islanders got their second shutout of the season, and the Blue Jackets were blanked for the second time.


Blue Jackets: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.

Islanders: At Detroit on Monday night to open a two-game trip.


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Vin A. Cherwoo, The Associated Press