It might be a not-so-happy holiday for the Islanders, who will have three days to think about their recent home struggles.
In their final game before the holiday break, the Islanders dropped their third straight at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum on Monday night, falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2.
Their previous two home games yielded subpar defensive efforts in an 8-3 loss to the Predators last Tuesday and Saturday afternoon’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Ducks.
“I didn’t like the last three home games, really,” coach Barry Trotz said. “They weren’t what I expect from our group night in and night out.”
The Blue Jackets’ Vladislav Gavrikov scored the winner at 16:31 of a very physical third period. The Islanders had trouble managing the puck in their own zone and Thomas Greiss couldn’t control Alexandre Texier’s initial shot.
“It was a good game, but they got the bounce at the end and find a way to win,” said Jordan Eberle, who had two assists to go into the break with a goal and eight assists in his last seven games. “That’s kind of been the storyline the last couple of games. We’re making mistakes that are ending up in the back of our net. We’ve got to find a way to clean that up because it’s uncharacteristic of us.”
Greiss stopped 32 shots for the Islanders (23-9-3). Joonas Korpisalo, named earlier in the day as the NHL’s third star of the week, made 35 saves for the Blue Jackets (17-14-6), who have won five straight and are on a 6-0-2 streak.
Korpisalo got a blocker on Anders Lee’s shot from the doorstep at 3:33 of the first period and stuck out his left pad to stop Casey Cizikas’ shorthanded rush at 11:45 of the third period to keep the score tied at 2.
“We don’t get an opportunity to get right back at it and we wanted to get this one before the break,” said Lee, who opened the scoring at 6:17 of the first period when he beat Korpisalo over the glove from the left circle after Mathew Barzal patiently skated behind the crease to set him up.
“So it’s frustrating,” Lee said. “We’ve got to sit on it. We just have to come out in Chicago and right the ship a little bit.”
The Islanders will resume their schedule on Friday night against the Blackhawks, the start of a three-game trip through New Year’s Eve that also includes stops in Minnesota — through Monday the Wild have an NHL-best 28 points since Nov. 14 — and Washington against the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.
After Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois twice hit the post earlier in the second period, the Blue Jackets scored twice within 3 minutes, 16 seconds to erase a one-goal deficit. Each team took 17 shots in the second.
The Blue Jackets’ Kevin Stenlund’s power-play goal from the right circle with defenseman Johnny Boychuk off for elbowing Nathan Gerbe tied the score at 1 at 6:18.
Gerbe, wide open in the slot, then made it 2-1 at 9:34 off defenseman Noah Dobson’s turnover. The rookie defenseman, in the lineup with Scott Mayfield unavailable because of illness, attempted to clear the puck, but it deflected off Alex Wennberg directly to Gerbe.
Barzal retrieved Boychuk’s hard blast off the backboards, swung behind the crease and converted the wraparound at the left post at 13:40 to tie it at 2.
“I thought there were stretches where there was some good stuff and other times, not so much,” Barzal said. “You’ve got to tip the cap to Columbus. They’re playing some good hockey right now.”