COLUMBUS, Ohio — They’re an afterthought in the standings now, but the Columbus Blue Jackets believe they’re starting something they can build on next season.
Ryan Johansen scored late in regulation to tie it and then added the clinching goal in the shootout April 2 to lead them to a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders, tying the franchise record with their eighth straight win.
“We’re playing some great hockey and we’re really making it tough on these good teams,” Johansen said.
The Blue Jackets, out of the playoff picture, have won 11 of 12 in addition to running their road streak to a franchise-best eight in a row.
They were down two goals midway through the third, a crowd of 15,361 was sitting on its hands and it appeared the winning streak was toast.
The Islanders took a 3-1 lead just 55 seconds into the third when John Tavares, who also had a goal, passed back to Travis Hamonic, who blasted a hard shot from near the blue line. Sergei Bobrovsky made the save but gave up a rebound, with Ryan Strome pouncing on it for his 17th.
But the Blue Jackets cut the lead to a goal when Jack Johnson scored on a rebound — his third game in a row with a goal.
David Savard’s shot from the point got through heavy congestion and Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell squeezed off shots before Johnson found the net at the 11:08 mark.
“Jack Johnson’s goal really energized us,” said coach Todd Richards, who collected his 200th career victory. “It got the crowd into it again. We started battling and getting to the front (of the net).”
Johansen then tied it with 3:43 left in regulation. Savard’s long shot was deflected at the net by Cam Atkinson, the puck trickling behind goalie Jaroslav Halak. Johansen reached his stick around the goalie to tap it into the net and tie it.
Bobrovsky made three big saves in the final minute of regulation when the Islanders were on a power play after Cody Goloubef was whistled for delay of game. Halak did the same in the overtime when Johnny Boychuk went off for interference and he stopped four in-close shots.
After Mark Letestu scored to lead off the shootout, Johansen slowed as he went in on Halak and slid the puck between his leg pads. Bobrovsky, who stopped Frans Nielsen in the first round, then stopped Kyle Okposo to lock up the victory.
Johansen came in slow and easy before calmly wristing a low shot through Halak’s legs.
“I just feel it’s tougher on the goalie. It’s hard for him to read what I’m going to do,” Johansen said of his deliberate approach. “It’s been working for me so I’ve kind of been sticking with it.”
Brandon Dubinsky also scored for the Blue Jackets, who tied the win streak they set in January 2014.
Eric Boulton scored for the first time in 17 months for the Islanders, while Halak finished with 36 saves.
Coach Jack Capuano said the loss was due more to what Columbus did than what his team didn’t do.
“They did a great job of getting shots through to the net and that’s how they scored three goals,” he said. “Our structure was good, but they found and way.”
There’s an uneasy feeling in the dressing room, since they’ve lost eight of 10. This is no way to prepare for the playoffs.
“This is the time of year you really want to focus on regrouping quickly because this happens in the playoffs,” he said of an emotional loss. “You have to be ready to go the next game.”
(RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer)