It would have been natural for the Islanders to have an awful feeling of déjà vu, having already blown 10 third-period leads this season
Instead, they not only stayed ahead but pulled away for a rare blowout win, topping the Blue Jackets 7-3 on Thursday night at UBS Arena after the visitors came within one early in the third period. It was a season high for both goals and margin of victory for the Islanders, who had played one-goal games in their last five matches and in nine of their last 10.
“When they scored that third one, you might get the sense of, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” Bo Horvat said. “I didn’t sense that at all on our bench. I thought we did great job of handling that in the third, playing in the offensive zone.”
Horvat scored twice within 20 seconds in the Islanders’ three-goal third period and linemate Mathew Barzal added two goals and two assists for the Islanders (11-7-7), who got 32 saves from Semyon Varlamov.
Spencer Martin stopped 29 shots for the Blue Jackets (8-15-5), last in the Metropolitan Division.
“It was huge to get another one right after that, it just killed their momentum right away,” said Barzal, who connected from the left circle off Horvat’s feed to make it 5-3 at 5:33 of the third period after Adam Fantilli scored his second goal at 1:28.
“Their third goal was a little lucky. A lucky bounce. Sometimes the gods give it back to you. I think they did.”
The Islanders had opened a six-game homestand with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sharks on Tuesday, giving up three goals in the final 8:05 of the third period. Two of them came with the Sharks skating six-on-five with their goalie pulled for an extra skater.
“I don’t know if we would call it relief,” coach Lane Lambert said of protecting Thursday’s lead after calling Tuesday’s loss “a sin.” “But I think it’s what we’ve talked about and what we expect and it was nice to see it.”
Horvat followed Barzal’s goal with a backhander at 11:31 and then a shot at the crease at 11:51 to cap the scoring.
“We would love to have three periods like that all the time,” Anders Lee said. “But the main point of that is how we did it. Guys were moving. Guys were hounding the puck and staying on the forecheck. Coming back but not taking their foot off the gas. I think that was the lesson we’ve been trying to work ourselves into here and we learned it for sure.”
But the Islanders’ biggest goal came when Cal Clutterbuck got open between the circles for Hudson Fasching’s feed to tie it at 2-2 at 14:30 of the third period.
Up to that point, the Islanders, plagued by turnovers, had been hemmed in their own zone for long stretches of the second period as the Blue Jackets scored twice and the crowd starting chanting, “Fire Lambert.”
Emil Bemstrom tied it at 1-1 at 5:56 of the second period and Fantilli, from nearly the same spot low in the right circle, made it 2-1 at 10:11.
“A big goal by Bucky there, for sure,” Barzal said. “The bench was a little quiet. For him to get that one just got us going. The bench got a little more animated.”
Barzal made it 3-2 at 18:51 of the second period and Kyle Palmieri’s power-play goal at 19:19 — just 16 seconds after Kirill Marchenko hooked Brock Nelson — gave the Islanders a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
A lead they ultimately held. This time.