COLUMBUS, Ohio — First periods have been problematic for the Islanders. But so, too, have the Islanders consistently played better over the course of games.
Not on this Saturday night.
Yet, it still all worked for the Islanders, who perked up late in the third period and beat the Blue Jackets, 3-2, in overtime at Nationwide Arena.
The Islanders took the opening draw of overtime and kept the puck in the Blue Jackets’ zone, with Nick Leddy feeding Brock Nelson for the winner just 33 seconds in.
Thomas Greiss made 34 saves for the Islanders (5-3-0), who have won four straight as they concluded a two-game road trip. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 31 shots for the Blue Jackets.
The Islanders’ lax effort finally prompted coach Barry Trotz to use his timeout at 2:28 of the third period as he loudly made his point on the bench.
Trotz told his team “let’s battle” during the timeout. “I didn’t like the way we started [the third period],” he said. “I wanted to reel it in before it got out of hand.”
“He’s pretty reserved,” said Nelson. “He lets us go about our business and do our thing. He gives us freedom. But not when we play like that. In the second, we slipped. We came out and we were worse in the third. He got on us a little bit. You’re not going to win too many hockey games like that. We were lucky, fortunate.”
Boone Jenner had nearly scored by muscling through the crease and swiping a shot that forced Greiss to reach back with his stick to keep the puck from crossing the goal line. Earlier in the period, Greiss had Cam Atkinson’s soft shot go past his blocker but off the left post and across the crease.
Trotz acknowledged more went into his goalie choice than Greiss winning three of four against the Blue Jackets last season, including two shutouts. Greiss and Semyon Varlamov have alternated starts through the first eight games.
Trotz very much had the Islanders’ spacious upcoming schedule — three games in 12 days — in mind when he opted for Greiss rather than Varlamov, who came up with a sterling 32-save performance in Thursday night’s 3-1 win at Winnipeg.
But Greiss also was coming off a strong game, Monday’s 21-save outing as the Islanders rallied for a 3-2 overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
“It’s more in the mindset of keeping them sharp,” Trotz said. “I thought Varly had a real great game. So did Greisser the game before. If I were to come back with Varly, all of a sudden Greisser hasn’t played for almost 10 days.”
Greiss got more work in the second period as the Blue Jackets
The Islanders somehow escaped giving up a goal as the Blue Jackets hemmed Nelson’s line with Anthony Beauvillier and Michael Dal Colle and the defense pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock in the defensive zone for the better part of a shift that lasted from 10:20 to 13:26. The Blue Jackets didn’t manage a shot on net as Beauvillier twice blocked shots by defenseman Zach Werenski and Ryan Pulock blocked defenseman Seth Jones’ attempted shot.
Mathew Barzal opened the scoring at 8:25 of the first period, skating past Werenski and beating Korpisalo from the right to the short side. It marked just the third time the Islanders have scored the first goal and the first time in five games as they played their best first period of the season.
Jones tied the game at 1-1 at 12:07 with a shot over Greiss’ glove from the left circle off a feed from Massapequa’s Sonny Milano. But Dal Colle made it 2-1 at 16:32 of the first. Beauvillier got the initial shot on net and then skated to the crease to tap the puck to Dal Colle for his first goal of the season.