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Islanders dominate Columbus in 5-2 win

New York Islanders' players celebrate their goal against

New York Islanders' players celebrate their goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets' during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. The Islanders beat the Blue Jackets 5-2. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete) Credit: AP / Jay LaPrete

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Anyone who has watched the Islanders this season knows they had a stretch like Saturday night's second period in them. That goes for Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who said before the game, "They're a dangerous team."

And it goes for the likes of goalie Chad Johnson and defenseman Brian Strait, two Islanders who have been watching plenty because the team has been going so well that they haven't been able to crack the lineup.

Both of them played well Saturday night, as did just about everyone on the team in the Islanders' 5-2 victory over Columbus.

"They're obviously playing with a lot of confidence right now," Richards said before the game in what might have been sheer politeness but became prescience.

The Islanders' confidence may not have been at an all-time high after losses in Edmonton and Vancouver and during a struggling part of an overtime win in New Jersey on Friday, but they did look good and dangerous Saturday night, regaining their stride with a 3-0 second-period burst that looked like a Best of the Islanders stretch.

"I think the first period might have been even better," Strait said, referring to the Islanders' 16-3 shot advantage in the 1-1 opening period, which featured Nikolay Kulemin's goal 31 seconds after the opening faceoff. "We had the puck probably in their zone about 85 percent of the time. We knew we were going to get a push in the second period and we just did more of the same."

Matt Martin, Anders Lee and Strait scored in a span of less than 7 1/2 minutes of crisp passing and hard skating that produced a 4-1 lead. Then the Islanders held on to secure a win for goalie Johnson, who has been sitting and watching while Jaroslav Halak has been helping the team into first place -- a position the Islanders reinforced Saturday night.

"You just work hard, you come prepared and focused for practice and stick with your game plan. You just have to keep positive and stick with it and believe in yourself," said Johnson, who had not played since Dec. 23 and had not won since Nov. 21.

On Saturday night, he was the best goalie on the ice, better than newly minted All-Star Sergei Bobrovsky, who was no match for the Islanders' run in the second.

Martin completed a pretty passing, skating, weaving sequence when he knocked home Ryan Strome's pass from the right wing at 10:04.

Only 3:33 later, Lee pressed Kevin Connauton into coughing up the puck, broke in on Bobrovsky and nailed it for a 3-1 lead.

Finally, at 17:31, Strait scored his first goal of the season, converting from the slot after Casey Cizikas' pass was deflected high into the air.

"It's funny. It felt like the puck was in the air for a minute and a half," Strait said. "I felt like I was the only one who knew where it was, and when it dropped, I just tried to put some wood on it. When you put pucks on the net, sometimes good things happen."

He and Johnson were happy that good things happened for each other Saturday night. Strait pointed out that the backup goalie often "looks gassed" after practice because he has to handle so many shots from teammates. Johnson said of Strait: "I'm sort of with him, out there after practice and pregame skates, really grinding it out. To see him play well and get results is great, knowing how hard he works."

All told, Saturday night showed the Islanders to be a deep team and made the two losses look like a blip. As Richards said, "They're doing a lot of good things. Just look at the standings."

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