The Blue Jackets’ losing streak hit five games tonight with the loss to the New York Islanders by a final score of 5-2.. The Jackets’ offensive stars were silent tonight against the Isles tight-checking game. The only bright spot for the Jackets was their bottom-six — the fourth line especially. Emil Bemstrom and Justin Danforth had the only goals for the Jackets while leading the team in CF%. Elvis Merzlikins had his strong moments in this game, keeping the Jackets in it at times, but in the end his glove side failed him, and he had yet another game with four goals allowed.
Here’s how it happened.
The Islanders had the better scoring chances at the start of the game, testing Merzlikins early. The Islanders controlled the pace of play in the opening minutes and it just seemed like a matter of time until New York would break through. It didn’t take too long for that to happen, thanks to Sebastian Aho (not that one) took a pass at the top of the left circle and unleashed a wrister that simply beat Elvis on the glove side. It was a clean look, and I’d imagine Elvis would like that one back.
1-0 Islanders (Aho from Nelson)
Off the ensuing faceoff, just 11 seconds later the Islanders struck again. Mathew Barzal chipped a puck into the Jackets’ zone, creating a two-on-one with Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom. Parise sauced a beautiful pass across the crease where Wahlstrom beat a sprawling Merzlikins.
2-0 Islanders (Wahlstrom from Parise and Barzal)
New York generated the first ten shots of the game in large part to turnovers and overall sloppy play with the puck. The Blue Jackets looked completely disinterested in the first half of the opening period.
Just minutes later it nearly became a three goal deficit when Kyle Palmieri skated in on a breakaway. Vladislav Gavrikov who had just missed the net on a shot at the other end, was able to hustle back and lift Palmieri’s stick just before he could get off his shot.
The Blue Jackets managed to stop the bleeding, but were still unable to generate anything at all offensively. The Islanders tight structure was giving the Blue Jackets fits.
The Jackets continued to shoot themselves in the foot, forcing themselves to kill a penalty in the last two minutes of the period. They managed to kill the penalty but also could have killed any chance they had at gaining the momentum heading into the intermission.
The second period started off decent enough for the Jackets with them generating a few shots early, but it didn’t take long for the Islanders to generate some prime scoring chances. Elvis Merzlikins came up a big a few times to keep his team in the game and only down a pair of goals.
The Jackets (their fourth line in particular) used the big saves of Elvis to get some of the momentum back. On one of their few instances of sustained offensive zone time, the fourth line was able to cash in and get the Jackets on the board. Emil Bemstrom was battling in front of the net and was able to position himself behind the Islanders defenseman to chop Eric Robinson’s backhand pass into the back of the net.
2-1 Islanders (Bemstrom from Robinson and Bean)
At this point, it appeared the Jackets had found their footing. They were able to capitalize again just simply by getting pucks on net. Yegor Chinakhov entered the zone with possession along the right wall — pulling off a silky toe-drag along the way — and threw a puck towards the middle. Vladislav Gavrikov had pinched in, found the puck and immediately tossed the puck on net. The puck was either stopped or blocked in front, but nonetheless, Justin Danforth was there to backhand the loose puck between Varlamov’s legs for the tying goal.
✨ Just(in) Danforth Things ✨ pic.twitter.com/oKvXUXjVHj— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) April 1, 2022
2-2 (Danforth from Gavrikov and Chinakhov)
In a tight checking game, in which skill is largely muted, it was nice to see the Jackets bottom-six make an impact on the scoresheet.
With the momentum strongly in their favor, the Blue Jackets had a golden chance to take their first lead of the night when Anthony Beauvillier was called for slashing. Unfortunately, nothing came of the man advantage, but they were able to put some more pucks on net which if you’re not scoring, is almost all you can ask for.
The Jackets got another crack at the man advantage not long after their first one expired with New York getting dinged for too many men. Unfortunately, that one did not yield any results either, as it appeared that a few players opted for the extra pass rather than putting the puck on net.
The period wound down without much more of note and ended tied at two goals apiece. It was a much better period for the Blue Jackets, but they would need to keep up that pace in the final twenty minutes.
Once again, Elvis Merzlikins was tasked with making a big stop early, denying Kyle Palmieri in front. The Islanders had not lost a game this year when they have held at least a two goal lead, and they came out in the third looking to keep that streak alive. Palmieri did his part, roofing a shot just under the crossbar past Elvis’ ear. It was a picture perfect shot that not many goalies in the league would save.
3-2 Islanders (Palmieri from Bailey and Pelech)
Oliver BJORKSTRAND had the tying goal on his stick just after the Palmieri goal, but missed the net on a breakaway. It’s a shame because it was such a great defensive play by the Maestro.
Columbus received their third chance on the power play with about twelve and a half minutes remaining with a big chance to tie the game. It wasn’t meant to be as they had arguably their worst power play of the evening.
The missed opportunity came back to bite them almost immediately. Mat Barzal used his speed to blow past the Blue Jackets defense and roof one past Merzlikin’s glove on the breakaway. Elvis’ glove side has been getting picked on in recent games.
4-2 Islanders (Barzal unassisted)
The Islanders seemed content to kill off the remaining time in the period, but were also still controlling the play. The Jackets never really generated any offensive zone time until the net was empty with just under three minutes left.
Columbus generated some quality chances but were unable to get anymore pucks behind Varlamov. Eventually, Ryan Pulock found a loose puck on his stick and sent it the length of the ice for the empty net goal.
Final 5-2 (Pulock unassisted)
The Blue Jackets look to snap their recent five game losing streak against a tough opponent in the Boston Bruins on Saturday night at TD Garden.