COLUMBUS — There are times in a season when nothing needs to be said following a poor period like the one the Islanders played in the first Tuesday night.
But this wasn’t one of those times.
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“I don’t have any voice left after that one,” Jack Capuano said of the way he reacted to his team falling behind 2-1 to the Blue Jackets after 20 minutes. “It was embarrassing the way we played, just unacceptable.”
The Islanders turned it around the next two periods, nearly thwarted in their efforts by 21-year-old rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. Anders Lee snuck a power-play goal past Korpisalo at 3:05 of the third to tie the game and Cal Clutterbuck’s fourth-round shootout goal clinched a 3-2 win that the Islanders absolutely had to have in the midst of a tight playoff chase.
“We’ve got a lot of good leaders in here, so there’s calm, there’s no panic,” said Ryan Strome, who snapped one through a crowd to beat Korpisalo just 56 seconds into the game to give the Isles a quick lead. “We know how tight it is in the standings. We’ve been playing a lot of good hockey lately and we couldn’t let this one slip away.”
Perhaps Strome’s goal on the second shot on Korpisalo gave the Islanders the thought that this game, against another low-ranked team, would resemble Sunday’s 8-1 romp over the Oilers.
But the Blue Jackets responded well and capitalized on the Isles’ sluggish play in the first. Cam Atkinson pounced on a loose puck and snapped it over Jaroslav Halak at 7:45 to tie it, then Travis Hamonic’s giveaway sent Atkinson off on a two on one and he fed Brandon Dubinsky to give Columbus the lead at 11:26.
The Blue Jackets could have had three more goals in the first if not for Halak, who denied Atkinson alone in front a few minutes later and made two other strong stops before the end of the first.
“Their goals, we were just giving them everything,” said Halak, who finished with 29 saves and three more in the shootout three days after being pulled in Detroit. “We were better obviously the next two periods.”
Korpisalo was up to the task. He stopped Strome twice in tight barely a minute into the second, two of the 38 saves he made over the second, third and overtime — the five-minute extra session was a blur of odd-man rushes both ways, with the goaltenders denying chance after chance.
There were also 80 faceoffs in the game, the most for any game this season. But the Islanders were content to win pucks back after stoppages and reload, finally breaking through when Frans Nielsen nudged a puck away from two Columbus penalty killers to Kyle Okposo, who found Lee alone in front.
“We just had to play simple and play hard after that first period,” Lee said. “(Korpisalo) played really well for them but we found a way through.”
Nielsen and Alexander Wennberg traded shootout goals before Halak denied Boone Jenner. Clutterbuck, a surprise fourth-round shootout choice, snapped one past Korpisalo to boost the Islanders back to third in the Metro, a point clear of the Penguins and Devils.
“We knew Columbus would play hard, play physical,” Capuano said. “We found our game and found a way to get two points. That’s the sign of a good team.”