COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jack Capuano didn’t mince words about his team’s third period here on Saturday night, when a tight game turned into a rout.
“You’re not going to win when you make dumb decisions with the puck,” the coach said after his Islanders took a 2-2 game early in the third and ended up on the wrong end of a 6-2 thrashing by the Blue Jackets, one of the hottest teams in the league.
Nick Leddy’s mistake was the worst and the one that started the tide turning. After the Islanders killed off a John Tavares penalty in the opening two minutes of the third, Leddy inexplicably threw the puck across the length and width of the Isles zone, trying to find Josh Bailey on the outlet.
Instead, the puck found Columbus forward Josh Anderson. He gathered the puck, cruised into open space and blasted one past Jaroslav Halak to break the tie.
“Just a silly mistake by me,” Leddy said. “It started with me, it’s definitely a bad pass and it just started to snowball after that.”
The Blue Jackets have piled up goals this season, hanging a 10-spot on the NHL-leading Canadiens a month ago and eight on the Blues a week later. So seeing them capitalize on gifts from the Islanders as the third period wore on was not all that surprising.
Brandon Saad scored off a faceoff win at 9:23, Lukas Sedlak swept in a rebound at 12:39 and Seth Jones blasted one past Halak at 14:23, sending Halak to the bench and J-F Berube into the game for mop-up detail. It was Berube’s first appearance for the Islanders this season.
But the Islanders felt like there was better awaiting them after Tavares tied the game with 7:28 left in the second, chipping his own rebound over Sergei Bobrovsky. It wasn’t a perfect 40 minutes but the Isles, 5-0-1 in their past six, felt they were in it.
“We came into this one with some confidence,” said Josh Bailey, who scored on a bloop shot from the wall at 5:59 of the first to open the scoring. “Both teams have been playing well and I think it showed until the third.”
In addition to a lost game, the Islanders lost Johnny Boychuk during that mess of a third period after he blocked a shot with his hand and raced to the dressing room just after Sedlak’s goal. Capuano had no update on Boychuk after the game.
“I thought our D struggled tonight,” Capuano said. “There were some ‘hope’ plays and we just didn’t manage the puck properly. It’s one thing to move the puck, but you have to move your feet, too.”
The temptation is, as Bailey put it, “wipe the slate clean” before Tuesday’s visit from the Capitals. But the reality is the Isles’ hot streak of late only pulled them barely out of the Eastern Conference cellar; they are still staring up at the top five teams in the Metro Division, all of whom are eight points or more clear of the 11-11-5 Islanders.
So night’s like Saturday cannot be so easily written off.
“It’s just disappointing,” Tavares said. “We’ve had some good third periods lately, especially the last one (Thursday against the Blues). It’s disappointing the way we responded tonight.”