The New York Islanders picked up a standings point to climb back into a tie for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card spot, at least temporarily, with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn.
The Blue Jackets’ win put them back into a tie with Washington for first overall in the NHL.
After an awful second period, the Isles recovered in the third to force overtime on a John Tavares goal that tied it at 2-2.
But Brandon Dubinsky’s great work around the net in overtime set up Cam Atkinson for the game winner on Atkinson’s 33rd goal of the season.
First Period: Afternoon snooze
After a slow start for both teams, Columbus generated the better chances but the Isles opened scoring late in the period on a nice play by Jason Chimera. The ice cheetah had taken a return feed from Anthony Beauvillier as they entered the Columbus zone and Chimera circled behind the net, where he found Travis Hamonic cocked and ready.
Hamonic’s blast went through traffic to give the Isles a 1-0 lead with 5:42 left in the period. Thomas Greiss preserve the lead with a fantastic save on Cam Atkinson, reading a cross-ice pass and getting his pad down despite losing his stick.
While shots on goal were 12-5 for Columbus in the first, the period wasn’t all that lopsided.
Second Period: Trouble brewing
The second period? Very much so. It was all Blue Jackets, with a 17-8 shots-on-goal differential telling the story.
It started with the teams trading chances in the first minute — Joshua Ho-Sang set up Brock Nelson for a great chance that Joonas Korpisalo lunged forward to stop, then Alexander Wennberg hit the crossbar behind Thomas Greiss.
But the Blue Jackets caught the first break.
Dennis Seidenberg hit the brakes with the puck in his own zone and was tripped by Wennberg’s trailing skate. No call there — Wennberg likely had no idea and was just continuing his stride — but tough break and just the opening Columbus needed.
Oliver Bjorkstrand picked up the loose puck as Seidenberg flailed from his knees to try to recover. Bjorkstrand looked off Wennberg, who was covered by Nick Leddy, and ripped a brilliant shot high near side past Greiss.
That was at the 1:00 mark of the period, but it seemed to set the tone.
The Blue Jackets finally got the go-ahead goal late, at 15:48 on a great fake shot/pass from Nick Foligno to Josh Anderson, but it was only by virtue of Greiss that the Isles made it that far before falling behind.
That goal came right after another good shift from Ho-Sang, this time with Beauvillier and Nikolay Kulemin, that forced another big save by Korpisalo. But for every dangerous chance the Isles generated, the Blue Jackets generated one plus a rebound.
Weight: "It was probably the worst two periods I've seen in a year and a half, the first two."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 18, 2017
Weight: "I told em after 2, 'You should thank your lucky stars it's only 2-1 and you have a chance to win a game.' It's disappointing."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 18, 2017
Third Period: Point secured
About mid-way through the third, the Isles finally again showed the sense of urgency that the situation required. The top line (with Andrew Ladd in Anders Lee’s spot on left wing) held the puck in the Columbus zone for nearly a full minute when John Tavares finally tied it -- on a shot from the blueline, of all places.
A hybrid line with Strome and Lee followed that up with another sustained minute of pressure in the Columbus zone, enough to get the crowd ringing a “Let’s Go Islanders” chant mid-shift.
But that one failed to produce a goal, and Ho-Sang nearly cost the Isles with one of those “trying to do too much” moments that rookie skilled players are known for.
He’d done well gaining the zone with Andrew Ladd, and keeping possession behind the net, but then Ho-Sang tried to weave through too many players all the way back to the blueline, where his pass was intercepted by Atkinson to create a breakaway.
Thankfully Scott Mayfield had enough legs to hustle back and catch up to Atkinson, directing his chance to a safe spot where Griess had the angle.
After the Isles’ push subsided, Greiss made a ridiculous series of saves through traffic and on a rebound with his toe to keep things tied with 3:27 left.
The three-on-three bonus round began with Tavares, Ho-Sang and Leddy on the ice just like Tuesday’s overtime win over the Hurricanes.
However, unlike Tuesday, they could never get out of their own zone, and there was no recovery once they got a line change. Ho-Sang worked it back to Calvin de Haan during the change, de Haan’s pass across the neutral zone was blocked, and the Blue Jackets took advantage of the scramble that ensued.
The game had a playoff feel, at least in the confrontation and testosterone-display department, as well as in how it was “officiated.” Calls were non-existent, and both coaches had reason to complain; the only power play call came off one of those easy “well, that’s the rule and there’s the evidence” calls on slashed broken stick.
Boone Jenner was active, and answered by a variety of Isles like Nick Leddy, Jason Chimera and Casey Cizikas.
Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky were their familiar pest selves, drawing reprisals from Scott Mayfield and Andrew Ladd, who fought Dubinsky toward the end of the second.
That last confrontation followed a big hit by Ladd on Dubinsky, who responded with a stick slash that broke Ladd’s stick. But the Isles did nothing with the power play which spanned the end of the second and beginning of the third.
That penalty call drew this series of expressions from John Tortorella, who had reason to be ticked off earlier in the game when Ryan Strome got away with a dangerous hit on Wennberg.
Standings Impact, Next Up
The regulation point gives the Isles 77 points with 11 games remaining. Though the Isles have one more regulation/overtime win -- the ultimate tiebreaker — the Leafs have two games in hand before their Saturday evening contest.
So the Isles could be several points behind both primary wild card rivals by the time they play next, which is Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, the same night the Leafs will visit the Blue Jackets.