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Islanders routed by Blue Jackets in Columbus’ first game off break

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara, right, of

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara, right, of Finland, checks New York Islanders forward Bracken Kearns during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Credit: AP / Paul Vernon

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Islanders have played too well for too long to overreact to Saturday’s 7-0 evisceration by the Blue Jackets.

The last time something like this happened, a 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs on Valentine’s Day, they responded with four victories in five games. But that did not prevent team leaders and coach Doug Weight from telling it like it was.

“Pathetic, really,” John Tavares said. “The way we competed was not good enough.”

“Pretty embarrassing on all accounts,” Andrew Ladd said.

“Not a lot of push-back, and not a great response,” Weight said. “That’s tough to look at.”

The worst of it was on defense; the Islanders allowed 45 shots and Columbus earned its seven goals without needing any on the power play. The Blue Jackets chased Thomas Greiss with a three-goal, 17-shot first period.

With the score 6-0 midway through the third, Weight gathered his players at the bench and appeared to be making an emotional speech.

“It was animated,” he said. “We won’t be verbatim [on what was said], but I just think in those games you have to rely on each other to finish hard and be teammates, and play like it’s 0-0.

“I just wanted to wrap their heads around: ‘You’re going to finish the game. You’re paid to play 60 minutes.’ I was just trying to get a little frustration [out], but it wasn’t about a screaming-and-yelling-fest at them.”

This is no time for panic. After a couple of days of practice at home this week, it’s on the road again, for six more games starting in Dallas on Thursday night.

The Islanders (29-22-10) are tied for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot and do not want to waste their impressive midseason rise with any more stinkers like the one against the Blue Jackets (38-16-5). “It’s just a good time for everyone to look themselves in the mirror and realize games are so crucial right now for us,” Tavares said. “You can’t take anything for granted.”

The pregame debate topic was how Columbus would react in its first game after the league-mandated five-day, in-season break, something that has vexed most teams this season. That proved not to be an issue.

The first goal was a bad break for the Islanders. Jack Johnson fired the puck in the direction of the net and it bounced in off the right thigh of Nick Leddy at 5:19.

The second goal was a soft one for Greiss. He seemed to stop Cam Atkinson’s shot, but the puck squirted past him and into the crease, where Boone Jenner poked it home. Nick Foligno pushed a backhand past Greiss off a nifty pass from Alexander Wennberg to make it 3-0.

Things got no better with J-F Berube in goal starting in the second period, during which Josh Anderson scored twice — once after stealing the puck from Thomas Hickey — and Columbus added 16 more shots.

“What was disappointing the most was we didn’t even give ourselves a chance with the way we competed,” Tavares said. “It wasn’t even mistakes or poor execution. We made it so easy to play against us.”

Said Josh Bailey, “It felt like the harder we tried to get back, the worse it got.”

Weight emphasized the obvious, saying the team has a lot on the line in the coming weeks. But first there will be the sad task of reviewing Saturday’s debacle.

“We’re going to have to watch it,” Weight said, “and unfortunately watch it again and see what we can get better at.”

In a word: Everything.

New York Sports