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Islanders 4, Blue Jackets 3: Halak comes up big in much needed win

With a tight playoff race taking shape, the Islanders gained two crucial points thanks to a top performance by Jaroslav Halak and goals from four different skaters.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders
This guy was the real MVP tonight.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the 4-3 victory, it’s hard to call this a push in the right direction as the New York Islanders gave up 49 shots against a team that had played the night before in the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, a win is a win, and the two points won tonight keep the Isles in the midst of the playoffs with 57 points in 53 games played. Jaroslav Halak kept the Islanders alive, making 46 saves and earning first star of the game honors. Goals from Nick Leddy, Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson lifted the Isles over the Blue Jackets in an important Metropolitan Division matchup.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz | Corsica]

First Period

The Islanders seemed doomed to repeat the trends of the last few games, as Josh Anderson scored a power play goal early on in the period, and Columbus had 14 shots on goal less than 7 minutes into the game. That onslaught continued, with shots ending 26-12, setting a Columbus Blue Jackets franchise record for most shots on goal in a period. Unlike the Leafs game, Nick Leddy tied it late in the first period on the power play. Mathew Barzal carried the puck into the zone, passed it off to John Tavares, who then found Leddy, who put the puck past Joonas Korpisalo.

Second Period

This was a stronger period for the Isles as they narrowed the shot gap, but unfortunately that wasn’t rewarded in the scoreline. Josh Bailey scored on a tip in, after Tavares won a face off in the offensive zone. The puck came out to Pulock, who passed it off to Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier’s one timer was deflected by Bailey, giving the Islanders their first lead of the game. It was originally given to Beauvillier on the official scoresheet, but then changed to Bailey, the rightful goalscorer.

Very shortly after, a bad giveaway by Scott Mayfield led to a Blue Jackets tying goal, as Cam Atkinson took advantage of the misplay.

Then, Nick Foligno found himself on a breakaway and used some fancy deking to get Halak out of position and gave Columbus the 3-2 lead.

At the end of the period, the Islanders had conceded 40 shots on goal.

Third Period

That lead wouldn’t last long, as less than three minutes into the third, Barzal kicked the puck to Jordan Eberle between the dots, where he snapped it past Korpisalo to tie the game.

Casey Cizikas had a great opportunity to give the Isles the lead, but got tied up and drew a hooking call instead, giving the Islanders another power play opportunity. Just as the penalty was expiring, Ryan Pulock took a shot from the point that Korpisalo saved, but Andrew Ladd picked up the rebound, passed it over to Brock Nelson, who had a wide open net to score and restore the Islanders lead.

The Isles came close to burying the game with Columbus’ empty net, but Tavares hit the post in the best opportunity, and the game ended with a 4-3 Islanders win.

Quick Thoughts

  • The Islanders still don’t look very good as a team, especially in the defensive zone, but when the power play clicks and Tavares and Barzal get engaged, the offense is really, really good.
  • Jaroslav Halak has really established himself again this season, after a tough 2016-17 campaign. He kept the Islanders alive in this game, and deserved the first star.
  • Even though Sebastian Aho isn’t a perfect player, he’s still much better than Dennis Seidenberg, who shouldn’t see the ice again after an atrocious game that saw him serve as a complete dead-weight tonight. The team could really use Johnny Boychuk back sooner rather than later, too.
  • Congratulations to Doug Weight on being the fastest coach to earn 50 wins in Islanders history. I don’t think he’s the right guy for the job here, but he has overseen some big wins in his short tenure as head coach.

Up Next

Next, the New York Islanders take on the visiting Nashville Predators on February 5th. Nashville is second in the Central Division, and has worked to fix many of their flaws after coming up short in the Stanley Cup final last season. The Isles have faced the Predators once already this season, with a big 6-2 victory in October. Hopefully we’ll see a similar result on Monday.

I also hope everyone enjoys Super Bowl Sunday!