The Blue Jackets needed to Respond.
With the painful loss to Edmonton and Brandon Dubinsky going on IR, everyone wanted to see what Columbus would do when the Islanders came to town for a major Metropolitan division match up.
With Sergei Bobrovsky back in net and several shuffles to the lineup, including Boone Jenner moving to center, the first period was a textbook display of how to jump on an opponent who had just suffered a fairly nasty loss of their own the previous night. With Zach Werenski and Seth Jones leading the charge, the Blue Jackets got into the Islanders’ zone, but couldn’t get shots on net until Artemi Panarin went deep and hit Werenski with a quick setup as the “rover” cheated into the slot. Werenski slammed it past Greiss to open the scoring, and the Jackets had the opening goal on their opening shot of the game.
They continued the full court press, working to keep the Islanders off balance and to bottle up the Tavares line as much as possible. The work didn’t take long to be rewarded after Nutivaara, Wennberg, and Bjorkstrand worked the puck into the offensive zone and the defenseman would pinch in much like Werenski had, taking a pass and hitting it in close to collect the second goal of the game.
If that wasn’t enough good news, things got even better for the home crowd at Nationwide when drew a tripping call and sent Brock Nelson to the box about three quarters of the way through the period, and even the worst power play in the league found a way to connect, with Panarin and Werenski cycling the puck through the Islander defense before setting up Pierre-Luc Dubois as he cut across the top of the crease, and the rookie didn’t miss his opportunity.
Up 3-0 at the end of the period and outshooting the Islanders 13-4, a lot of fans might have been thinking this game was in the bag.
Unfortunately, the guys on the ice made the same mistake.
The early second period was dominated by the resurgent Islanders, who took advantage of the Jackets’ lazy start to push the play in on Bob and light him up with goals from Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas, slashing the lead, and just as the Blue Jackets seemed to be getting their feet under them, Bailey walked through a crowd around the crease and popped his second of the night home to make it a brand new game.
Once again the Jackets had given up a bushel of goals. But the difference was in how they responded. Where they had broken after a similar barrage from the Oilers, this time they steeled themselves and met the challenge, with a familiar face getting involved in leading the charge.
Cam Atkinson (yes, THAT Cam Atkinson!) lead the breakout into New York’s territory, then passed off to Seth Jones, giving him all the room he needed to line up and blast a shot past Greiss to give the Blue Jackets back the lead, and as the period wound down, the Blue Jackets would get make another big stride, drawing a delayed penalty call, and Nick Foligno would cash in with the extra skater on the ice, getting the puck from Wennberg off the half wall before hitting Greiss from almost the exact same spot that Dubois scored his goal with the man advantage.
(Oh, and just for a little extra sweetness? The goal would be Foligno’s 100th career tally in a Columbus sweater.)
Josh Bailey would complete his hat trick in the third period, bringing New York back within a goal, but the Islanders wouldn’t be able to tie this game again, eventually surrendering an empty net goal to Josh Anderson just before the final second ticked off the clock, and the cannon roared for the much needed win.
Final Score: Blue Jackets 6 - Islanders 4
The win was a much needed ego boost, with the team proving to themselves that they could create a lead and respond to adversity when that lead was erased. Losing Dubi took a solid vet off the ice, but guys like Jenner, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Alexander Wennberg all stepped up in their own ways, and Torts finally splitting up the Jack Johnson / Alexander Wennberg pairing seemed to help both defenders, particularly Johnson, who showed some decent chemistry with Nutivaara.
On the other hand, the team still struggled in the faceoff dot - no surprise with one of their best faceoff guys missing - and that sluggish start to the second period could easily have been fatal on a different night.
Still, credit where credit is due. This was not an easy win - but particularly in the tight confines of the Metro this season, it was a BIG win, and the Jackets need to keep finding ways to produce them as they take on the Hurricanes, Bruins, Leafs, Penguins, and Flyers before the holiday break.