Islanders exorcise some 3rd period demons, stomp Blue Jackets 7-3

Islanders Barzal Blue Jackets
Dec 7, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

ELMONT, N.Y. — The New York Islanders bucked the trend of disastrous third periods to close out a 7-3 victory over the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night at UBS Arena — just two nights after blowing a three-goal third-period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks. 

“It’s what we’ve talked about and what we expect,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “It was nice to see it.”

It’s the first time this season that the Islanders won a game at home by more than one goal.

Mathew Barzal scored twice and added two assists for the Islanders (11-7-7), his second of the night coming 5:33 into the third period to snuff out a Blue Jackets comeback attempt after they cut a New York 4-2 lead in half early in the frame. Barzal’s four-point night continues a hot streak that has now seen him record 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in his last four games.

Bo Horvat proceeded to score twice in just 20 seconds later in the third period to put things to bed and cap off a three-point night on a personal note. 

“We just killed their momentum right away,” Barzal said of his team’s third period. “It was a bit win… It was a good opportunity for us to catch a team with some ailments so we did a good job.”

The Islanders created that two-goal advantage by scoring three goals in a 4:49 stretch behind tallies from Cal Clutterbuck, Barzal, and Kyle Palmieri, which came on the power play, to overcome a period in which they were largely outplayed.

Rather than keep their foot on the gas against a last-place team following Pierre Engvall’s first-period tally, the Islanders were dominated by the Blue Jackets in the first half of the second period, falling behind after yielding two goals in 4:15. Emil Bemstrom snuck behind the Islanders defense to slot home a rebound off the end boards behind the New York net at the 5:56 mark of the frame before rookie Adam Fantilli snapped home a wide-open one-timer at the 10:11 mark.

The Islanders remained on the back foot for the ensuing five minutes as they were hemmed in their zone amidst a chorus of boos and “Fire Lambert” chants and held shotless for 4:31.

Their first shot to break that drought, though, found the back of the net as Clutterbuck received a pass from Hudson Fasching from the left-wing boards and snuck a wrister past the blocker of Martin to tie it up with 5:30 left in the period.

“That was a big goal by Bucky there for sure,” Barzal said. “The bench was a little quiet and the crowd was quiet up there. So for him to get that one just got us going and the bench a little more animated.”

Barzal returned the lead to the Islanders 4:21 later when a shot from Scott Mayfield at the right point was deflected by Blue Jackets winger Kent Johnson and right to the winger’s stick inside the left circle, almost to his surprise. But Barzal remained composed and found the back of the net with Martin out of position.

“It came off a skate or something and, you talk about the hockey gods, it just lands literally right in my wheelhouse,” Barzal said. “You can’t really draw it out much better than that.”

Following a Kirill Marchenko hook on Brock Nelson just 12 seconds after Barzal’s goal, the Islanders found a third goal in quick succession on the power play with just 41 seconds left in the period. The tactical move was ruthless as Noah Dobson fed Barzal at the left circle, who immediately sent it cross-ice to Nelson in the right circle, who in turn quickly found Palmieri at the left post for a simple tap-in to make it 4-2 headed into the third period. 

“They had a lot of focus on taking away [Horvat] and they were kind of collapsing,” Palmieri said. “Nelly made a great pass, Barzy made a great pass to set it up, so two great plays by them.”

It continued New York’s red-hot power play, which at that point was 12-for-its-last-30 dating back to Nov. 15 (40%). 

But the third period began with that familiar tune for the hosts. Just 1:27 in, defenseman Scott Mayfield whiffed on a dribbling puck in front of the Islanders’ net that was pounced on Fantilli to pick up his second of the night and make it a one-goal game. 

Barzal recovered some breathing room, though, thanks to a Columbus gaffe just 4:04 later. A shot from Dobson was saved by Martin but while he tried to cover the puck, it was poked out of his grasp by his teammate, Boone Jenner, to a nearby Horvat. He went back to Barzal, who had an open net to finish in from between the circles.

Horvat got a goal of his own with 8:29 to go in the game to put the Islanders out of sight. A solo rush down the wing saw a wrister saved, but the rebound came right back into his path as he went behind the net. He managed to finish the wraparound backhander from a tough angle.

Just 20 seconds later, he got a second after a Barzal wraparound pass found him alone in front for a one-timer.

“It just gave us some belief that we can go out there and do it,” Horvat said. “Not sitting back on our heels and just waiting for them to come at us and feel sorry for ourselves and be like, ‘here we go again,’ and I thought we did a great job of that.”

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