The New York Islanders maintained the top wild card position by earning a regulation point but will have to feel an opportunity was missed as they lost 5-4 in overtime in Columbus, to a Blue Jackets team that is battling the Sharks for last place in the league.
If there is some solace, beyond the single standings point, it’s that the Islanders achieved it with an impressive third-period push to erase a two-goal deficit. That they entered the third period trailing 4-2 was not quite an indication of how most of the game had gone; it was tied 2-2 late in the second before the Isles were stung by an impressive individual display by Kent Johnson followed by a quick insurance game that turned the game upside down.
With a sellout crowd and an NHL debut for the just-signed NCAA free agent Hunter McKown, the Blue Jackets opened the game with energy and tested Ilya Sorokin several times in first half of the first period. But the Islanders settled things down and steadily build pressure for the rest of the period, reaching the intermission with a 1-0 lead.
Ilya Sorokin doing Ilya Sorokin things early in this one pic.twitter.com/LktFXkPJ1j— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 24, 2023
They were doing a good job recycling pressure in the Columbus zone when Hudson Fasching chipped a nice pass to Zach Parise, who very quickly got a shot off from inside a phone booth of overage. J-G Pageau was in front for the screen, but he did not deflect it and the goal was Parise’s 20th of the season.
Zach Parise was informed after the game about the father-son scoring 20 goals for the same franchise fact. He was very pleasantly surprised. Obviously means a lot to him to be connected with his dad like that.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 25, 2023
Second Period: A bushel of goals
The Blue Jackets thought they tied it early in the second, but Lane Lambert was having none of that and issued his second challenge of the season.
After review, the goal was waived off, correctly, as Ilya Sorokin had clearly been bumped in the crease, affecting his ability to play the shot.
However, Zach Parise was called with a delayed penalty on the play, so the Islanders had to go on the penalty kill against a pretty strong Blue Jackets power play. With the extra man, Johnny Gaudreau circled the zone, used a screen to catch Ilya Sorokin off his near post, and shot upstairs to tie the game, 1-1, at 4:58.
That score didn’t last long though, as the Islanders answered right back. Good forechecking and a careless pass in the Blue Jackets zone created a 2-on-1 situation with Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson. Palmieri was decisive and fed Nelson as soon as he could settle the puck. Nelson was cocked and ready to shoot, restoring the Islanders lead at 5:30.
The Blue Jackets tied it at 2-2 just a few minutes later, with some good work in the Isles zone and Noah Dobson caught trying to play the pass while not realizing Liam Foudy was right behind him at the top of Sorokin’s crease.
Still, things seemed to be just fine late in the second period when another Blue Jackets youngster pulled off a jaw-dropping sequence to, at least temporarily, change the game.
First, Kent Johnson put the puck between his legs in stride to get an open lane to the right of the net — not an uncommon move, but still cheeky. But the real topper was going straight behind the net and spotting an opening to pull off the Michigan/lacrosse move, flawlessly, to give the Blue Jackets the lead:
I don’t know that the Islanders were still reeling from that play, but the Blue Jackets were certainly energized. Just 40 seconds later, following lots of battles in the Isles zone, Eric Robinson got position on Scott Mayfield and converted a heaving pass from Emil Bemstrom at the top of the crease.
Just like that, a 2-2 game had become 4-2 with only 20 minutes to play, even though the Isles outshot the Jackets 17-8 in the period.
Third Period: Deficit erased
The Islanders delivered the perfect response though. They came out flying in the third period, pinching smartly to keep O-zone time alive, and firing shots from multiple angles.
Palmieri got the all-important first goal early, 3:34 into the period, deflecting an Adam Pelech point shot. The Isles continued to pour it on after that, but it was a faceoff play that set up the equalizer 4:26 later. Nelson notched his second of the game, on a feed from Bo Horvat.
Right off the draw Bo Horvat finds an open Brock Nelson in his office for a game tying PPG pic.twitter.com/2wjH3XIK89— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 25, 2023
With that emergency mission to erase the two-goal deficit accomplished, the Islanders didn’t immediately sit back. But you could see them steadily shift from the early-period pressing to a more “we need to ensure a point” approach.
That was fine enough, and they still had the better of play in the third. But a final-minute Anders Lee penalty ended up being the deciding factor in only claiming one point.
Lee’s penalty was a routine play off a faceoff, but in the battle at the hashmarks he had the shaft of his stick up while Lane Pederson was leaning down into him. The Islanders killed the 29 seconds of the 5-on-4 to finish off regulation, but at 4-on-3 Boone Jenner got the winner on a deflection 40 seconds into overtime.
No rest, and no mercy. The Islanders and Buffalo Sabres will both play the second of back-to-backs Saturday night back on Long Island. The Sabres played at home tonight, beating the Devils, 5-4.
With the point, the Islanders move to three points ahead of the Penguins and four points ahead of the Panthers, with each of those teams having a game in hand. All three teams are in action at home tonight, the Panthers hosting the Rangers and the Penguins hosting the Capitals.