COLUMBUS, Ohio — The trademark resilience was fine, showing why the Islanders had gone so long without losing back-to-back games in regulation. The grit was there, enabling them to come all the way back from a three-goal deficit and later chip away at a two-goal hole. Josh Bailey was terrific, recording his first career hat trick.
It’s just that none of it was enough.
After the Islanders were unable to put their hands around this game, a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jackets on Thursday night, they were not quite able to put their finger on what they need to do next. They sure are going to start searching, though.
“I’ll be frank. We’ve got some guys who are passengers right now. It’s just not good,” Doug Weight said after his team sustained successive regulation defeats for the first time this season and continued a skid that has reached 2-5-1. “Every time I’m trying to rely [on someone] or challenge, it’s in our net or it’s a penalty. It’s game 32, so there are some discussions to be had.”
And what might be on the table in those talks?
“Everything,” he said. “It’s five minutes after the game right now, so I’m a little heated. We’ve got to get some guys that want to dig in a little more and earn some trust.
“I’m not trying to cause a fire sale here or anything like that. I’m just saying we’ve got to get some guys to compete or we’ve got to make some decisions,” Weight said. “You’ve got to look no further than yours truly to get them going somehow.”
He did try a few new wrinkles, beginning with starting Thomas Greiss in goal for the first time in five games. It did not help Greiss that his teammates allowed Artemi Panarin to almost literally skate circles around them, setting up Zach Werenski for the icebreaker at 3:57 of the first period. The Islanders are 11-0-0 when they score first and 6-12-3 when they do not.
Columbus piled on with goals from Markus Nutivaara and Pierre-Luc Dubois before the first intermission. It could have been 4-0 if Greiss had not stopped Werenski on a breakaway. In other words, it had the earmarks of a blowout, especially given that at that point, the Islanders had been outscored 19-0 over eight periods in this building.
Weight gave his players an earful between periods and they responded. Two goals by Bailey, who entered as one of the league leaders in assists, and one by Casey Cizikas, promoted from the fourth line to the third, tied the score and gave the Islanders momentum.
It didn’t last. Seth Jones scored on an odd-man rush, with Johnny Boychuk injured at the other end, and Nick Foligno added another on a delayed-penalty situation to make it 5-3. Bailey’s power-play goal at 7:11 of the third made it close again, but it wasn’t enough.
“It’s tough to come back and win hockey games when you get down that much,” Bailey said. “We battled and found a way to get our legs going and compete the rest of the way and made it close. It was just frustrating, the way we let it get away.”
John Tavares, who assisted on all three of his linemate’s goals, said, “We’re just giving up too many goals. We’re just putting too much pressure on our goaltenders. When you keep having to come back from deficits, it’s tough to win in this league.
“Just details and execution. We’re not executing at a high level right now,” said the captain of a team that needs to be more resilient than ever.