Including overtime and the unofficial shots of the shootout, the New York Islanders peppered rookie Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo with 50 shots on net yet only barely escaped with both points -- er, two of the three points asexually made available by virtue of an NHL game exceeding 60 minutes -- on a night where they dominated the second half.
Their 3-2 shootout road win was earned the hard way after trailing 2-1 as the third period began, though that's small comfort against the Metro's basement dweller. After gaining the lead 56 seconds into the game, the Isles listed for much of the first period before steadily turning things around in the final two-thirds and requiring heroic work from Korpisalo to force overtime.
Korpisalo has been great for the Blue Jackets the last couple of weeks filling in for the injured Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney, so the elements of a torturous script were there -- including the factoid that Korpisalo recently gave up five goals to the Oilers squad the Isles just thumped. But after the Blue Jackets took the lead tonight, every interruption in pressure was backstopped by good work from Jaroslav Halak, who made 29 saves and was particularly good on several odd-man opportunities in overtime.
First Period: Hey This Is Going To Be Easy...Not
The Islanders scored in the first minute, on a set play faceoff-and-rip reminiscent of Ryan Strome's junior heyday, and maybe that gave them the wrong sense of complacency, like goals would continue to roll in like they did Sunday on the #HereComeTheOilers.
Cam Atkinson tied it six minutes later as the Blue Jackets pounced on some sustained zone time with a few rebounds around the Isles net. Four minutes later Brandon Dubinsky, who assisted on Atkinson's goal, made it 2-1 on a great feed from Atkinson on a two-on-one following Travis Hamonic's giveaway and olé in the neutral zone.
The Blue Jackets kept pouring it on, and the Isles were pretty lucky to get to the first intermission with just a one-goal deficit.
Halak not at fault here. Keeping it close. #Isles an adventure in own zone so far.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 10, 2016
#Isles down 2-1 after 1, outshot 12-7 and not playing particularly well.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 10, 2016
Second Period: Stalemate
The intermission and the ugliness was enough to wake the Islanders back up, and they logged the first four shots of the second period within the first couple of minutes, mostly through pressure from the Strome-John Tavares duo with Mikhail Grabovski in support.
But that run ended with a tripping penalty by Frans Nielsen, and while the Blue Jackets didn't convert, they kept up the pressure throughout and after Nielsen got out of the box. Any intermission "momentum" recapture was lost.
Still, the Islanders arguably got the better of play in the period and, though it ended scoreless, they entered the second intermission with reason to think they were right there, despite the play of Korpisalo.
Third Period: Early Equalizer, Then More Korpisalo Show
That proved true, and the Islanders equalized early. Good power play puck movement had Frans Nielsen winning a battle to feed Kyle Okposo above the slot, where he found Anders Lee for a nifty backhand down low to tie it at 2-2.
The Isles then continued to tilt the ice for the rest of the period, only to have Korpisalo shut the door as he faced over 30 shots for the fourth game in a row. He made 14 saves alone in the third period as the Isles outshot Columbus 15-5 -- this after outshooting them 17-9 in the second.
The game within the game was the entertaining matchup of the Dubinsky and Tavares lines. Dubinsky probably loves matching against Tavares almost as much as he loves matching Crosby, though Tavares doesn't whine nearly as much so as to draw that extra motivation. Neither of the Dubinsky-Atkinson goals came against Tavares, and Strome's goal wasn't against the Dubinsky line, but otherwise the two trios exchanged close chances and strong man-on-man battles all night.
Tavares finished with three shots on goal, Grabovski with four, and Strome with five.
Overtime/Shootout: Le Pant, Le Pant, Le Pant
Overtime was the typically exhausting exchange of rushes interrupting slow roller-hockey-style passive gliding for positioning, though this one featured more than the usual odd-man rushes and outstanding saves from both goalies.
It sometimes hurts to watch the best players overwork themselves so taxingly for the bonus point in a mid-regular season game, but American sports fans have declared ties are the Great Satan so there we go. It was certainly entertaining as intended.
They combined for 12 shots on goal in the OT period alone (7-5 Isles), which meant official shots after 65 minutes were 46-31.
In the shootout, Frans NIelsen had zero reluctance going to his traditional backhand shelf move against the NHL-green Korpisalo. But Kyle Okposo and Tavares couldn't match his effort with respective Overthought Moves I and II, and Alexander Wennberg tied it on the Blue Jackets' last best-of-three chance after Halak made a couple of good saves.
But Halak stopped the next attempt by Boone Jenner too, and Cal Clutterbuck finished things by showing off his laser wrist shot from the high slot.
So it's two points, which were essential given the schedule ahead. One would say they don't ask how, they ask how many, except when playoff tiebreakers are down to regulation/OT wins, they do ask how. Regardless, we'll take it.
The Isles now return home for a visit from the Kings Thursday, before playing in Raleigh on Saturday, then coming back home for the Red Wings on Monday and the Capitals on Thursday. Busy times, but you knew that.
Tortorella on Korpisalo's name: "I don't know how to spell it. I know how to say it now."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) February 10, 2016