The New York Islanders provided a better effort, with a similar result, to sweep a home-and-home with the Columbus Blue Jackets with two regulation wins.
The second one came at home Thursday night, with the Islanders blitzing early, then giving up a 2-0 lead, before pulling away in the third period for a 5-2 win. Semyon Varlamov was strong again, stopping 30 shots and picking up another win in his first consecutive starts of the season.
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First Period: 11 seconds and away
The Isles had a great first period, outshooting Columbus 15-5. At 8:39 Sebastian Aho kicked off a sequence where the Isles scored two goals in 11 seconds. Aho drove down the right wing boards, made a pull-up move and then snuck a sharp shot on the inside post for his first of the season.
A beauty from #25. pic.twitter.com/zMpdv32eej— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 31, 2022
Off the following faceoff, Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise advanced the puck with a quick exchange through the neutral zone to create an break for Parise, who faked the shot and sent a great feed to the trailing Oliver Wahlstrom, who easily made it 2-0.
What. A. Dish. pic.twitter.com/Ap6yAOnDfu— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 31, 2022
The Isles kept pushing in that period, with Kyle Palmieri getting caught from behind on a breakaway and Anthony Beauvillier hitting the post, but that was all they could get past Elvis Merzlikins, and that would (temporarily) haunt them.
Second Period: Lead disappears
The push continued into the middle period, and the Isles had multiple shifts of long possession in the Columbus zone. Both teams appeared to be playing a little freely in that “we’re both not making the playoffs” kind of way, but the Isles’ overlaps in the offensive zone were peak Doug Weight Era. At one point Barzal, Wahlstrom and Parise were toying with the opposition, perhaps showing a hint of budding chemistry, though it was creative rather than “structured.”
But the best chance to extend the lead was probably Palmieri, all alone coming out of the corner behind the Columbus defense with time to make a horizontal move across the crease. Merzlikins read it though, and fully extended his back leg to keep Palmieri from making it 3-0.
Not long after that chance, the Blue Jackets pushed back and outmuscled the Isles down low to get two goals in under two minutes. Things could’ve gotten worse, as the Isles then had to kill two penalties, including a debated Too Many Men.
But they held Columbus power play off, Varlamov was good and seeing the shots, and that left things at 2-2 going into the third period.
Third Period: Palmieri and away
Palmieri got redemption early, scoring what stood up as the winning goal at 3:16 of the third with a lovely snipe. He turned the defenseman around at the blueline, still had a bad angle coming down the boards, but lifted it high and near post over Merzlikins’ shoulder.
There's top shelf and then there is this goal. pic.twitter.com/3q1Dsw1JGW— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 1, 2022
After the Isles killed another penalty — Noah Dobson off for slashing — Barzal pounced on a lazy exchange to provide the killer insurance goal. Barzal intercepted a loose pass at the Isles blueline, chipped the puck ahead, then turned on the jets to pull away from both men back. Though forward Sean Kuraly slashed in panic mode, Barzal had enough room to lift the puck over Merzlikins’ shoulder.
(Re)watch and admire:
Say it three times fast: Barzal's Beautiful Breakaway pic.twitter.com/x5sIAIc461— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 1, 2022
Barzal should try the speed approach in the shootout sometime.
The Blue Jackets pulled the goalie with two minutes left and managed sustained pressure, aided by easily intercepted clears. It was the kind of 5-on-6 play that would be maddening if it was a one-goal game and a game that mattered, but under the circumstances it was no worry.
After a bunch of failed clears, even the Blue Jackets were tired so Ryan Pulock was given enough time to turn in the slot and loft a bouncing puck the length of the ice and into the empty net with 57 seconds left.
With that, the Isles finished the sweep and moved up in the standings for the first time in months. They’re totally going to finish the season on a hot run (against mediocre teams) that convinces management they had the right squad all along.
Happy 90th, Stan!
Celebrating @StanFischler's birthday with #IslesNation tonight! pic.twitter.com/hZRty12SKt— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 1, 2022
It’s a Metro weekend! The Isles are back at it tomorrow night at the Garden, followed by Sunday afternoon in Newark.