The Islanders didn’t exorcise any demons but they kept them at bay for one night at least, as they turned a fortunate second period into a runaway third (after a brief early scare) for a 7-3 win over the injury- and illness-depleted Columbus Blue Jackets.
Third-period leads have been the bane and the bogeyman for the Isles all season, so there was little optimism to be had from them entering the third period with a 4-2 lead that looked unlikely just minutes before.
And, of course, all the ever-present fears were there when they conceded a sloppy goal (hello, Mayfield) just 88 seconds into the third to make it 4-3. But Mat Barzal built some welcome comfort by scoring his second of the night, then assisting on two Bo Horvat goals just 20 seconds apart to make it 7-3 with eight minutes to go.
For one night, the Isles didn’t blow it.
- Noah Dobson continues to shine. Nice bounce-back season for him continues.
- Mike Reilly followed up his active game against San Jose with another good night. Even physical and thorough on defense. I’m sure it will ebb and flow with him, but they probably keep him in the rotation when Sebastian Aho returns.
- Ohhh the fans are impatient and they were letting the Isles have it when a 1-0 lead became a 2-1 deficit in a four-minute span in the second. Soon after, when the on-ice unit was stuck out there for a two-minute shift, boos rather than encouragement rained down. A Bronx cheer greeted the eventual clear and line change.
- That led to what felt like a turning point: The fourth line had a good moment of pressure and Hudson Fasching pounced on a turnover to find Cal Clutterbuck alone in the slot. Clutterbuck did great to take the puck off his skate, lean right and put it inside the left post to tie the game at 2-2 four minutes after they’d fallen behind. The atmosphere could’ve gotten ugly if the Isles get that equalizer.
That said, the second period was not pretty. But two goals in a 28-second span in the final minutes gave them a 4-2 lead. First Barzal, shooting quickly when a Scott Mayfield shot caromed to him...
... then Kyle Palmieri finishing on a very pretty tic-tac-toe exchange on the power play.
Palmieri on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/yO70uUUIHb— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 8, 2023
In the third, this was fun: Good faceoff win and play by the Isles, then a Blue Jackets defenseman screws his goalie by sweeping the puck away from him to Horvat, who fed Barzal:
HIS SECOND OF THE NIGHT. pic.twitter.com/si0d55enzG— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 8, 2023
Horvat’s wraparound backhand loft after retrieving his own rebound was nice:
Two goals from Bo Horvat tonight pic.twitter.com/hgvQrhUkvC— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 8, 2023
And yet. This was two points they absolutely had to get. The Sharks had another stunning comeback OT win tonight, so they’re a team making noise...the Blue Jackets are both bad and severely injury depleted.
I’m happy for them — and relieved they didn’t make too much of this night too uncomfortable — but the Isles get little credit restored for taking care of business tonight, even if the win lifts them into a tie for second in the surprisingly mediocre Metro.
The six-game homestand now gets considerably harder with the Kings on Saturday and the Leafs on Monday.