Anders Lee scores as Islanders blank Blue Jackets to snap three-game skid
Thomas Greiss skated over to the Islanders’ bench midway through the first period Saturday night and told Islanders coach Barry Trotz that he was feeling a little dizzy, perhaps a bit sick.
His subsequent message to goalie partner Semyon Varlamov was simpler.
“Greisser came in and said, ‘You’ve got to go in,’ ” Varlamov said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to go in.’
“Of course, you’re not ready for this scenario because you’re just sitting on the bench. You don’t wish for anybody to get hurt, so you’re just sitting there watching the game. It happens quick. I had to just go out there and get ready very quick. I only had like 30 seconds, I think.”
Varlamov made 30 of the team’s 39 saves, including 17 in the third period, as the Islanders snapped a season-high three-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Blue Jackets at Barclays Center before a crowd of 13,433.
“I think, honestly, this one goes to Varly,” said Anders Lee, who scored his first goal in 12 games dating to Nov. 1 off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence from Josh Bailey and Mathew Barzal to make it 1-0 at 1:18 of the first period.
“Coming in cold, quick change there and really shutting the door on a team that had quite a bit of chances. The shot totals were a little high for what we’d like to see, but it’s a shutout, and Varly deserves a lot of credit for that.”
It was the second shutout of the season for the Islanders (17-5-2), who had scored only two goals on their 0-2-1 California trip but looked sharper offensively with three new line combinations.
“We had a long road trip. We knew how important this game was for us,” said Varlamov, who made 27 saves in a 1-0 win at Buffalo on Nov. 2 for his first shutout as an Islander. “So it was important to come into our building and play a good game, and I think we did a lot of good things today. We played very solid hockey.”
Elvis Merzlikins made 25 saves for the Blue Jackets (11-11-4), who had beaten the visiting Penguins, 5-2, on Friday night.
Greiss lasted only until 14:06 of the first period, when he seemed to surprise Trotz during a stoppage.
The Islanders helped Varlamov settle into the game by spending the next few shifts in the Blue Jackets’ zone. The early shots Varlamov faced mainly came from the outside.
“It’s a little bit of shock therapy,” Trotz said. “You’re in that survival mode. You just lock right in and go on instincts and determination. He’s a veteran goalie. He’s seen probably everything you can see as a goalie. He responded well.”
Meanwhile, the Islanders responded well to Trotz’s new line combinations.
He said his lines had “dried up,” and that certainly was evident in Wednesday night’s 4-1 loss to the Kings and Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Ducks after a franchise-record 17-game point streak (15-0-2).
Bailey went on Barzal’s right wing with Lee. Jordan Eberle, still seeking his first goal of the season, moved from Barzal’s line to Brock Nelson’s right wing with Anthony Beauvillier. Rookie Otto Koivula centered Derick Brassard and Leo Komarov.
Varlamov preserved the one-goal lead as he kicked out his left pad to stop Oliver Bjorkstrand on a three-on-two rush at 8:10 of the second period.
Then defenseman Adam Pelech, flipping the puck down ice from the blue line, set up Barzal’s breakaway backhander for a 2-0 lead at 16:01 of the second period.