Saturday night the downtrodden Columbus Blue Jackets played host to the New York Islanders. A crowd of 13,949 at Nationwide Arena finally saw something to cheer about when the CBJ netted three goals in the third period to end a five game losing skid. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Johansen had particularly strong performances with 3 points each, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky battled through two tough goals to backstop the win. Cam Atkinson also had a strong performance, and the defense played a sound game. It was an all-around effort, something that was lacking the last five games.
Columbus opened the scoring at 6:25 of the first period when Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was penalized for tripping Marian Gaborik behind the goal. Dubinksy received the puck off a shot from Mark Letestu and shoved a backhand on goal. The puck bounced off the left post and then off Nabokov’s skate and over the goal line. Not only did it set the tone for the night for the Jackets, it was the first lead they’ve had in over 287 minutes. The Jackets and Isles traded penalties later in the period, but both teams were able to kill them off. The Islanders carried much of the play in the first after the initial CBJ goal. It wasn’t until the final minute that New York caught a break. At the 19:25 mark Franz Nielsen of the Isles carried the puck over the blue line of Columbus and into the high slot. He fired a wrist shot that Bobrovsky saw too late due to a screen in front by Eric Boulton and several CBJ players. The puck slipped through the pads of Bobrovsky and the two squads went to the dressing rooms tied at 1.
In the second period it was the Blue Jackets who struck first again when Johansen was able to block a shot from the point then take a Dubinsky feed up the center of the neutral zone and breakaway on Nabokov. Johansen beat the Isles netminder high glove side for his fifth goal of the season. Ironically enough, it was Johansen that was invovled in the Islanders goal that tied the game back up at the 13:30 mark. During some 4-4 action where Artem Anisimov and Matt Carkner were off for roughing, Defenseman Thomas Hickey took a pass from John Tavares and fired a slap shot that Johansen attempted to block. The puck deflected off his stick and changed direction on Bobrovsky, beating him high left side. Neither team was able to break the tie before the end of the period, leaving the score 2-2 with the third left to play. The Jackets had one power play during the second, but did not capitalize.
The third was a coming-out party of sorts for the Blue Jackets, as they were able to revive their anemic offense. RJ Umberger was able to deflect a James Wisniewski shot from the point just 27 seconds in. Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic was called for slashing, and the CBJ added their second power play goal of the night. This goal would prove to be the game winner, but Columbus was not finished. Cam Atkinson finally broke through a 6 game goal drought burying a rebound in which Johansen tried to stuff the puck into the goal after driving out from the right corner. Wisniewski finished off the Islanders with an empty net goal he fired from behind his own goal line at 18:52. Goaltender Bobrovsky even earned an assist on the Wisniewski goal. Even with a two goal lead the Blue Jackets stood tall on defense, not giving New York many quality shots. The shots that were from prime areas were put aside by Bobrovsky. After five games of playing rather uninspired hockey, the Columbus Blue Jackets were able to grab two points from a divisional foe.
Final: CBJ-5 NYI-2
All in all it was the most complete effort we have seen in what was beginning to feel like forever from the Blue Jackets. I saw the defense combo of Nikita Nikitin and Dalton Prout play pretty well. Nikitin made his usual turnovers but Prout was there to back him up. It was nice to see Dubinksy, Johansen, and Atkinson finally get rewarded for their efforts tonight. Those three players the last five seemed to be the only ones on offense really digging in. I also thought Blake Comeau played his game tonight, grinding it out and being disruptive to the Islanders’ flow. The three stars of the night were Johansen (1G, 2A), Dubinsky (1G, 2A), and Umberger (1G, GWG). It was the first three-point night of Johansen’s young NHL career, and if he continues to play like he has it should not be his last.
A complete effort all around, and the losing streak dies at five games. Next up is at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday at 7pm. Seven of the next eight games will be on the road for Columbus, with only a game against the Montreal Canadiens being at Nationwide Arena.