Was this the final nail in the playoff coffin? After overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the third period on Friday night at home, the Blue Jackets overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to enter the final 20 minutes tied against the New York Islanders on Saturday. From there, it was all Isles and that 19-5-5 finish needed became 19-4-5 just like that.
Josh Bailey got on the board twice for the Islanders in the first period, in large part to the work of John Tavares. Bailey got the scoring started just 1:07 in the game against rookie goalie Anton Forsberg. Bailey added another one just 7:14 later and the Islanders had a commanding lead early.
The Jackets battled back late in the first period. First, Brandon Dubinsky scored his fifth of the season from Matt Calvert and Fedor Tyutin. Then, the CBJ killed off a Corey Tropp penalty and right after that Cam Atkinson scored unassisted for his 13th of the season. Two goals in less than four minutes had knotted the game up at two apiece heading into the first break.
Roughly seven minutes into the second period, Kevin Connauton turned the puck over which led to a shot by Lubomir Visnovsky and Ryan Strome slammed home the rebound to puck the Islanders up 3-2. Some fireworks ensued the next shift as Hartnell and Hamonic each received five for fighting and Foligno also went off for roughing.
At the end of the period, the Jackets once again tied it, this time just moments after a power play had expired. Scott Hartnell led a rush into the and turned and fed James Wisniewski at the right point. Wiz gave it right back to Hartnell low on the right circle who immediately fired a cross-crease pass to Nick Foligno. He was able to score on the doorstep for his 22nd of the season and Columbus had tied it up in the final minute again.
Another slow start ensued in the final period. Just 1:54 into the third, Frans Nielsen put New York up for good when he converted a "slap pass" from Thomas Hickey. From there, it was the John Tavares show. After setting up his teammate in the first period, Tavares decided to get into the scoring act himself. At 7:08, the Islanders captain gathered the puck on a rebound off a shot from Anders Lee. From the left circle he turned and fired to the near post, beating Forsberg for his 25th of the season.
Just a few minutes later, he added his 26th of the campaign. He entered the zone with speed and fed his teammate Josh Bailey, who gave it right back to him. With a defender cutting his passing lane off, Tavares dangled into the slot and caught Forsberg out of position. Another goal, and it was 6-3 with almost nine minutes to play.
Notes and Thoughts:
The Islanders are really good this year. They are dominating the Metro Division, to the tune of 18-2-0 this season, including fourteen wins in a row. PIttsburgh's reign may be in trouble.
What can you say for the Jackets? Technically, they are still mathematically alive. As Dan said, every time you think they are done they string together a couple of improbable wins. They are still twelve points behind Boston with a game in hand. 19-4-5 gets them to 94 points, but nothing really suggests that is about to happen.
Anton Forsberg found himself in a tough position. A few of the goals were on him, but he got no favors in front of him as he faced 46 shots, most of those coming in the first 50 minutes. Hey, defense - you may want to pick up the top line for New York.
The power play was no good. Again.
The next game on this five-game road trip takes Columbus to Philadelphia on Tuesday.