After taking two of four points on the road over the weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets returned home to take on the New York Islanders. The Islanders, projected to be a playoff team this season, have supremely disappointed - they have just 65 points, four fewer than the Blue Jackets, though with two games in hand and a much better goal differential.
Zach Werenski, injured after a high hit in the Minnesota game over the weekend, did not practice on Monday and was listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. He also did not take part in morning skate in advance of Tuesday night’s game.
On Tuesday morning, the Blue Jackets announced that Head Coach Brad Larsen and Assistant Coach Steve McCarthy were placed in the NHL’s COVID protocols. The team announced that Pascal Vincent would take over as head coach for the game.
After the morning skate, Pascal Vincent announced that Jared Boll and Kenny McCudden would join him on the bench - Boll running the defense, McCudden running the forwards.
Vincent also announced that Zach Werenski would miss the game with Adam Boqvist filling his spot in the lineup. With Elvis Merzlikins getting the start in net, here’s what happened.
After some end to end action to open the game, Sean Kuraly took the first penalty as he was sent to the box for high sticking with 15:04 to go in the first period. After being successful on the kill, it was the Blue Jackets who struck first - Vladislav Gavrikov joined the rush and put a rebound past Semyon Varlamov for a 1-0 lead.
Columbus goal (1-0): Gavrikov from Laine and Peeke, 7:20
At the 8:13 mark of the first, Columbus earned their first power play as Kiefer Bellows was sent off for hooking. Despite a couple shots, Columbus was unable to capitalize on the man advantage. With 11:30 gone, Patrik Laine took the second Blue Jackets penalty as he was sent off for hooking. Brock Nelson was able to find the equalizer - a rebound through a mess in front of the net came right to Nelson and he had a wide open net. Merzlikins had no chance.
New York goal (1-1): Nelson from Lee and Barzal, 11:47
Seconds later, Merzlikins denied a Casey Cizikas breakaway to keep the game tied. With 4:57 remaining in the first period, the Islanders took their first lead of the night. A neutral zone turnover led to a cross ice feed to an unmarked Josh Bailey who buried it. The Blue Jackets (Bjorkstrand, Carlsson, and Sillinger) were caught flat footed in the defensive zone.
New York goal (1-2): Bailey from Pageau, 15:09
With 2:38 remaining, Casey Cizikas was sent off for hooking Yegor Chinakhov. Adam Boqvist hit the post and Jakub Voracek missed a backdoor chance, and the penalty was killed as the first period came to a close.
The Blue Jackets opened the second period on the front foot but were unable to find the tying goal. Just 3:47 into the second, the Islanders extended their lead to two as a long defensive zone shift saw Merzlikins beat again. The initial shot hit the post and bounced to Anthony Beauvillier who beat a sprawling Elvis.
New York goal (3-1): Beauvillier from Nelson and Lee, 3:47
Elvis follow the Beauvillier goal with his best save of the night, sliding across to make a stop on a 2 on 1. With 10:50 to go, the Islanders scored yet again. A failure to clear the puck led to Zach Parise being left alone on the back post, putting a pass past a helpless Merzlikins. Yet another defensive zone breakdown.
New York goal (4-1): Parise from Dobson and Barzal, 9:10
Gavrikov cut the deficit to two with his second of the night as he cycled to the front of the net and scored on a rebound with 6:28 to go, beating Varlamov with a backhand.
Columbus goal (2-4): Gavrikov from Voracek and Laine, 13:32
Gavy is on a roll tonight! pic.twitter.com/k1zg7MmFcv— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) March 30, 2022
The Blue Jackets limited damage the rest of the way, but were unable to cut the deficit, trailing 4-2 after 40 minutes.
The Islanders got the first power play of the third period as Cole Sillenger was sent off for high sticking after 14 seconds. The Jackets penalty kill was successful. With 15:30 left in the third period, Oliver Bjorkstrand made up for his earlier defensive lapse as he cut the deficit to one. Bjorkstrand gathered a lose puck in the slot and his innocent wrister beat Varlamov.
Columbus goal (3-4): Bjorkstrand, unassisted, 4:30
Seconds later, Gavrikov’s attempt for his first career hat trick was denied point blank by Varlamov. The Jackets took control of the game through the middle part of the period and into the final six minutes as Columbus looked for the equalizer, but Varlamov stood tall.
Into the final five minutes, the Blue Jackets continued to dominate the run of play but could not beat the Islander defense. Bjorkstrand caught the Islanders on a line change with 3:30 to go but was denied by Varlamov. With 2:31 to go, the Blue Jackets went to the power play as Beauvillier was sent off for hooking Cole Sillinger. The Blue Jackets pulled Elvis for a 6 on 4 as they searched for the tying goal. The Jackets were unable to find the tying goal and, with 21.4 remaining, Laine went to the box for slashing as he tried to keep the puck in the zone.
New York Islanders 4 Columbus Blue Jackets 3
Heartfelt condolences to the Ottawa Senators and the Melnyk family. Owner Eugene Melnyk passed away Monday after a long illness. Best wishes to the Senators organization.
Congratulations to the Ohio State women’s hockey team, honored pregame for their national championship.
Stick taps to Andrew Peeke for his 100th NHL game.
Stick taps to Vladislav Gavrikov with his second multi-goal game of the season.
The defensive zone coverage for this team remains an abject disaster. Obviously, this is an offseason and training camp problem to correct, but the team has to find a way to get better in their own zone. This season’s Blue Jackets are statistically the worse defensive team in franchise history, which is saying something.
Nice response from the team after going down 4-1 to have a chance late - 70-45 edge in shot attempts, 45 shots on goal. A better defensive effort gets a win.
Patrik Laine’s hot streak continues with two assists. Laine now has 19-17-36 in his last 26 games, 13 multi-point games.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fly to New York to take on the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM EDT.