COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Islanders were clinging to a one-goal lead in the third period and gave the desperate Blue Jackets three straight power plays in the opening 6:43. Two delays of game and one borderline hooking call and the Isles were in danger of letting a winless team up off the mat.
Instead, the Isles and Jaroslav Halak steeled themselves. They made sure every Columbus shot didn't produce a second or third chance and that the penalty killers got to pucks before the Blue Jackets did.
As often happens with teams that can't buy a win, the Blue Jackets lost focus and the Islanders took off in a 4-0 victory Tuesday night. Thomas Hickey's breakaway goal at 11:20 of the third expanded the lead and Cal Clutterbuck's ripper on a two-on-one 2:16 later put it out of reach.
"In the not-too-distant past, we were in the same position ourselves," Clutterbuck said after the Islanders (4-1-1) won their fourth in row and sent Columbus to 0-7-0, tying the modern record for worst start to a season. "There were times we felt like we literally couldn't do anything right. But for us now, we have to take advantage of that and we did."
Halak made 37 saves, though at least 30 of them were on shots from well outside the danger zones. He had a couple of scary moments in the third with pucks that trickled through him. He found the first one in the crease behind him after Brandon Dubinsky's shot in the opening minute of the period, then had help from Hickey to sweep the other trickler away during the last of Columbus' three straight power plays.
"The guys were there all night," said Halak, who pitched the shutout in his second game of the season. "Some nights, the puck just bounces your way. Other nights, they go off shoulders, shin pads and in. That's how it's going for them right now."
The Islanders played a strong first period, dictating the pace and putting up plenty of zone time in the Columbus end. They broke through when Nikolay Kulemin threw off a check, set himself in the slot and buried Marek Zidlicky's feed from behind the cage with 1:02 left in the period.
The Blue Jackets started to play a more forceful game in the second, but Halak was there and the Isles defenders found pucks before their opponents. It was the same active stick play that led to Hickey's back-breaker. With the teams skating four-on- four, Hickey picked off Cody Goloubef's pass at the Isles' blue line, streaked in alone and put a nifty move on Curtis McElhinney to start the parade of Nationwide Arena fans to the exits.
"I was a little out of my element there," said Hickey, who scored only his eighth career goal. "I think even at times last year, we've gotten anxious in 1-0 games, maybe a little impatient. But Jaro was terrific tonight and we kept them at bay for the most part."
With a sixth power-play opportunity inside of seven minutes to go, beleaguered Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards pulled McElhinney with 5:05 to play. John Tavares sealed matters with an empty-netter at 16:46.
"They played extremely hard tonight," Jack Capuano said of Columbus. "They haven't had any puck luck and we capitalized on the few chances we had."
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