The New York Islanders played one of their best games of the season and downed the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 at Barclays Center Tuesday night. Brock Nelson netted the game-winner early in the third period while John Tavares added two assists. Goalie Thomas Greiss made 21 saves to earn the win.
Nikolay Kulemin played a key role for the Islanders. The veteran forward was moved up to the top line when Anders Lee missed the game due to an illness. Kulemin responded by scoring a goal and screening Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to help create another tally by Josh Bailey. The goal was the 100th of Bailey’s career.
“Top to bottom, this was one of our best efforts of the year,” Islanders interim coach Doug Weight said. “I would say every line had a spark plug.”
The Blue Jackets were stifled after dominating the first 10 minutes of the game and managed only 23 shots on goal in the entire game.
John Tortorella was clearly frustrated by his team’s performance. “I’m not dissecting things tonight,” he told reporters after the game. “We played a good first period but I don’t know where it went from there.”
The win gave the Islanders at least a point in five straight games (4-0-1) and improved the team to 3-0-1 under Weight. The Blue Jackets are now just 3-3-0 in their last six contests.
The Islanders got off to another slow start and were thoroughly outplayed early. The home team did not manage a shot on goal for more than six minutes and had trouble possessing the puck for long in the early going.
The Blue Jackets broke on top when Nick Foligno deflected Ryan Murray’s shot, which barely trickled past Thomas Greiss and into the net.
The Islanders did improve their play in the final few minutes of the period and actually outshot the Blue Jackets 9-8 in the first 20 minutes.
The Islanders slowed the pace down and did a very good job of containing the usually explosive Columbus attack in the second period. The game lacked pace and flow for most of the middle stanza, but the Islanders were clearly the better team. The home team outshot the visitors 13-6 for the period.
Kulemin moved up to the Islanders’ top line to replace Lee, who was a late scratch due to the flu. Kulemin did his job and created traffic in front which led directly to the Isles’ tying goal. Josh Bailey got the tally when his pass deflected in off the skate of Seth Jones. It was the 100th goal of Bailey’s NHL career.
Kulemin continued his strong play on the first line when he put home the rebound of a shot from the point by Calvin de Haan to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
The Islanders continued to be aggressive early in the third period, and it paid off as Brock Nelson’s high wrist shot from the top of the circle eluded Bobrovsky’s glove just 35 seconds into the period to make the score 3-1.
Jason Chimera continued his strong offensive play of late when he took a turnover at center ice and beat Bobrovsky low glove side with a wrist shot at 5:21 to make the score 4-1 Islanders. John Tortorella had seen enough and replaced his starting goalie with Joonas Korpisalo.
The Blue Jackets pulled to within 4-2 on Cam Atkinson’s wrist shot from between the circles with 5:31 left in regulation time, but it proved to be too little, too late.
The Islanders continued to play solid defense. Although the Blue Jackets entered the period down by only one goal, they managed only nine shots on net for the entire third period. Many of those shots were taken after the game was already out of reach.
CBJ – Nick Foligno (17) assisted by Alexander Wennberg and Ryan Murray
NYI – Josh Bailey (7) assisted by John Tavares
NYI – Nikolay Kulemin (8) assisted by John Tavares and Calvin de Haan
NYI – Brock Nelson (10) assisted by Nick Leddy and Adam Pelech
NYI- Jason Chimera (10) unassisted
CBJ – Cam Atkinson (24) unassisted
THW Three Stars:
First: Nikolay Kulemin (Goal)
Second: Jason Chimera (Goal)
Third: Josh Bailey (Goal)
Montreal Canadiens vs New York Islanders
Barclays Center – 7:00 PM EST Thursday, Jan. 26
Broadcast Channels: MSG-Plus and RDS, SNE
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Nashville Predators
Bridgestone Arena – 8:00 PM EST Thursday, Jan. 26
Broadcast Channels: Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Tennessee
Long time hockey writer and author of the new book, “Ice Wars: The Complete History of New York’s Greatest Modern Sports Rivalry.” It tells the story behind every game between the Rangers and Islanders dating back to 1972 and features profiles of more than 80 players from both teams and quotes from more than 50 exclusive interviews from players, coaches and broadcasters from both teams.