The struggling Columbus Blue Jackets gave the New York Islanders all they could, and the home team didn’t look terribly determined to avoid a second consecutive home loss to a bottom-feeding opponent, but ultimately the Isles prevailed for a 4-3 overtime win on Long Island.
It took three one-goal comebacks from the Isles, a sterling night from Brock Nelson, Sebastian Aho and Scott Mayfield, but finally the Islanders pulled ahead for their one and only time when Zach Parise converted a pass from J-G Pageau 39 seconds into overtime.
There are no free or easy nights this early in the NHL season, and the Isles would do well to take that lesson away from this close call. Though the official shots read 46-29 for the Isles, this was a difficult game the Isles were somewhat fortunate to win.
First Period: I fell asleep
Early this season, as the Islanders played uneven hockey, on several nights it seemed the aging “Identity Line” was the only one keeping things alive. Tonight there were some similarities, at least in the first half of the game, as the Isles largely sleepwalked through significant stretches.
The trio of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, though lacking in youth and high-end talent, at least demonstrated urgency and energy.
So it was a sleepy and scoreless first period, though the Isles officially outshot the visitors 10-6.
Second Period: Here come the goals
The official stats say the Isles outshot Columbus 22-15 in the middle period, but the only thing about that stat that feels genuine is its invocation of general chaos.
It was a busy, active period, yes. But the Isles never seemed in control until late, they were always trying to find a rhythm, and the shot total was likely influenced from them constantly playing from behind.
Cole Silinger opened scoring early at 3:09 on the power play, with Alex Romanov in the box for a soft but legit holding penalty. Sillinger was left alone at the doorstep and batted his own rebound in behind Ilya Sorokin.
Fortunately, just four minutes later, Brock Nelson tied it up on one of his allegedly 10 shots on goal in regulation.
After Nelson just missed on a nice rush down the right wing, Sebastian Aho kept the puck in and moved it across the blueline to Scott Mayfield. Mayfield’s head was up and looking for Nelson at the left doorstep, so his shot-pass was easily redirected by Nelson to tie it at 1-1.
A look at Nelson's goal pic.twitter.com/jPMMNgAY1v— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 13, 2022
But it wasn’t three minutes later before the Blue Jackets were back on top, with someone named Emil Bemstrom shooting up the middle to receive a quick breakaway alone on Sorokin. In his first NHL game of the season (but at least he has over 100 games of experience) Bemstrom made a nice deke to lift a backhand past Sorokin.
Down 2-1 past the halfway point against what’s supposed to be a bottom feeder, things were not looking up.
Things finally turned, with a boost from the power play. The Islanders didn’t score with the extra man starting at 12:38, but the pressure they generated seemed to help wake them up. They had a good run of play for the rest of the period, and got the equalizer late.
Aho featured again, keeping the puck in, getting a shot on goal that took a fortunate bounce off Anders Lee (in front, in his office) and bouncing right to Nelson, who made no doubt with 45 seconds left in the period.
It felt like that goal was coming, and it was the only sustained stretch of the game where it looked like the Isles were clearly the team much higher up the standings than the Metro’s last place team.
Third Period: Making it hard, even still
If the Isles were going to ride newfound momentum and restore things to rightful form, an early power play would seem like a good ingredient. Jake Bean provided the gift with a puck over the glass penalty just 1:30 into the period, but this time Islanders got nothing special going with the extra man.
At 5-on-5, the Islanders did not push the program, they did not take control against a team scraping the bottom of the division. And so a broken play, with a bounce off the side boards, provided the opening for the Blue Jackets to once again take the lead.
Marcus Bjork scored on a blast — and if you’ve never heard of him, that makes sense, because of course this was his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
With just over seven minutes left and with despair starting to set in — and three minutes after Bjork’s go-ahead — the Islanders tied it up yet again. Once again, it was thanks to the Aho-Mayfield pairing, who are low-key getting things done.
Aho, who did not get an assist on the play, had another impressive keep in to keep it alive. Barzal then did some of his magic, orbiting the zone with an extreme lean and then firing a puck just wide from the blueline. The puck bounced off the end boards in the perfect spot for an alert Mayfield to pinch in, take the space afforded to him in the slot, and then lift an unlikely and deceptive backhand against the grain and into the top corner.
Scott Mayfield + Backhanded Shot = Tie Game pic.twitter.com/5F6XeczZnp— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 13, 2022
That carried the game to the end of regulation, the first time this season that the Isles would see extra time.
Overtime: Making one possession count
The Blue Jackets had three forwards out for 3-on-3 and controlled the puck for the first 30 seconds. But when their rush missed, Patrik Laine was in no-man’s land. He held and clutched Zach Parise on the way back up ice — enough to receive a delayed penalty — but the never-ceasing Parise wasn’t content with a penalty call. He fought free of Laine to make himself an option for J-G Pageau on what became a 2-on-1.
Off a good pass from Pageau, Parise made no doubt.
The Islanders are in Ottawa to face the Senators on Monday, and it’s a...5:30 EST start for some reason.