The New York Islanders scratched together a two-goal lead early in the third period only to squander it and lose a costly point in a 4-3 shootout loss to Columbus. The already-eliminated Blue Jackets tied a franchise record with their eighth consecutive win, while the Isles turned to scoreboard watching as the regulation point nudged them to 96 points in the tight Metro standings.
Mark Letestu and Ryan Johansen each beat Jaroslav Halak in the shootout, while Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo were both stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Isles might not have made it to the breakaway drill if not for a gutsy overtime penalty kill. But they wouldn't have needed any of that had they protected their two-goal lead or converted a gift power play in the final two minutes of regulation.
Outside of the usual trading of surges here and there, the game wasn't dominated by either team and the 3-1 lead felt a little fortuitous when it arrived. So an extra-time result isn't unfair; just frustrating given how good they looked on the play in which Ryan Strome gave them a 3-1 lead 55 seconds into the third period.
Yes But There Was Goulton
The game opened with some shockers: Not only did Eric Boulton score his first goal of the season (in his sixth game) after creating his own opportunity, but just minutes later Dalton Prout was initially credited with a first goal of his own. Prout's goal was soon correctly credited to Brandon Dubinsky, who converted on a ridiculous deflection of Prout's wide shot.
The next scorers were a lot more familiar. After Nick Leddy drew the Blue Jackets in circles as he pinched behind their net, he fed Johnny Boychuk at the point, whose blast was deflected in by John Tavares just 2:03 into the second period.
There was the only goal of the second, and Ryan Strome made it 3-1 with an even earlier goal in the third.
(Every once in a while, when the Isles give up early goals a couple of periods or games in a row, I'm bombarded by questions/comments about how Jack Capuano doesn't have them "ready to play" or some other such Strong Belief in Patterns behind Random Events. I always wonder where these people are when it happens to the Isles' opponent. Then I remember.)
Strome's goal was an easy tap-in for him, but a thing of beauty from the full unit of Islanders rushing up ice: Nikolay Kulemin bought possession in the neutral zone and sent Tavares into the zone with speed. Tavares' quick stop at the faceoff circle shook himself free of the defense, which was also drawn away by Brian Strait rushing the net. Tavares instead passed to Travis Hamonic at the point, whose shot through the aforementioned traffic created the easy rebound for Strome.
Strome and Tavares nearly hooked up again, with Strome's shot hitting the post and crawling achingly along the goal line but not in. Might have made the difference? Might have.
Outside of Strome's goal, the third period otherwise had a herky-jerky start with lots of faceoffs. But near the midway point the Isles fourth line was hemmed in long enough for Jack Johnson to creep down to the doorstep and knock in a rebound after Casey Cizikas, Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey tussled with the Blue Jackets forwards over the bouncing puck in front.
Hickey and Visnovsky were also victims on Ryan Johansen's tying goal with under four minutes remaining, as a shot from Cam Atkinson handcuffed hit Hickey (painfully so) and then handcuffed Jaroslav Halak, leaving a bouncing gimme for Ryan Johansen to sweep in. If that goal contained a tough bounce or two, it was nonetheless karmic result. After the two-goal lead, the Isles were sagging back and letting the Blue Jackets come after them in wave after wave.
Because the hockey gods like to toy with mortal men, the Isles got a late power play on what appeared to be an incorrectly called over-the-glass delay of game penalty. (It looked like the puck hit the top of the glass on its way out, not that such a fine distinction gives the rule much sense.) Though the Isles held possession on that power play, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped the few shots that made it through, and the hockey gods allowed Tavares to be crosschecked without repercussion.
Overtime and Shootout
Incredibly, the officials then began overtime by sending Boychuk off for a soft interference penalty flailingly drawn by Dubinsky.
Frans Nielsen, Hamonic, Strait and Halak then pulled off a heart-stoppingly gritty penalty kill where Nielsen in particular appeared completely gassed for the final 45 seconds of a full two-minute effort. Halak made the saves on the one-timers, and the skaters managed their remaining fumes as well as they could, not wasting movements while maintaining position.
Somehow, Hamonic then found the reserve to take the puck all the way to the Blue Jackets' goal as the penalty expired, looking off Boychuk for a possible odd-man rush as he escaped the box. Though gassed, Hamonic returned for another shift only to take a shot off the knee that had him writing on the bench as overtime ended.
At the end of the game, the Capitals -- who began the night one point behind -- were in the third period of a close one in Montreal.
[UPDATE: The Capitals won to pull into a standings tie with the Isles, though it was via shootout so they did not add a ROW. However, the Caps have the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of more points in head-to-head matchups this season, as the Isles wins came via OT, while the Caps have a regulation win and a shootout win over the Isles.]
The Isles return home to host the Sabres Saturday night.
Sweat it out.