COLUMBUS, Ohio — The New York Islanders got key contributions from a few unlikely sources in their latest victory.
Brian Strait had a goal and an assist while playing his second game in a row after sitting 11 and backup Chad Johnson made 16 saves in his first start since Dec. 23 to lead the Islanders to a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 10.
“As a coaching staff, not only do we want to see them do well, their teammates want to see them do well, too,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We have a close-knit group.”
They also don’t mind scoring by committee as Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin, Anders Lee and Kyle Okposo also scored, and Ryan Strome and Thomas Hickey each had two assists for the Islanders, who maintained their recent surge into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a second consecutive win in as many nights.
“We played within the framework and the structure that we wanted to play against a really good hockey team,” Capuano said. “I like the way we dictated the pace tonight.”
Jack Johnson and Nick Foligno scored for Columbus, back home from a four-game (2-2-0) trip with the logo for the upcoming NHL All-Star game freshly painted inside the center-ice circle.
But for a second straight game they had a bad period that cost them.
“We became undisciplined in certain areas of the game and it opened up holes and exposed us,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said.
While the Islanders stuck to their game plan, the Blue Jackets fell apart in the second period. On Jan. 9 in Toronto, it was four goals against in the first period in a 5-2 loss. In this one, the Islanders found the net three times in 7:27 in the middle frame to move ahead 4-1.
“For the most part, we capitalized on all the chances that we had,” Chad Johnson said. “Just tried to funnel pucks to the net and get to the rebounds when we could.”
Tied at 1 and with Sergei Bobrovsky flashing his pads to make one stop after another, he finally didn’t have an answer on a perfect passing combination off a rush started by Casey Cizikas. Strome then sent a pass from the right wing to Martin for the easy redirection in front for his sixth at 10:04.
Three minutes later, Kevin Connauton had trouble with a bouncing puck in his skates. Lee grabbed it at the blue line, raced in and beat Bobrovsky between the legs for his 10th.
Strait followed with his first at 17:31 on a shot from the slot that deflected off the stick of Columbus’ Ryan Johansen.
“It’s always exciting to get back in and play,” Strait said. “It’s one of things where you’ve just got to get back in there and feel comfortable. Try to come in as confident as possible and build each game.”
Early in the third period, Foligno snapped home a rebound off Johansen’s shot to close the gap to two on his career high-tying 18th of the season. Okposo closed the scoring with his ninth at 14:54.
The game was tied at 1 after the first period even though the Islanders held a 16-4 shots advantage.
Kulemin open the scoring just 31 seconds in, redirecting Nick Leddy’s slap shot for his seventh.
Johnson pulled Columbus even with a power-play slap shot from the point at 4:22 for his fourth.
“For me and my game, I just try to stick with it,” Chad Johnson said. “The guys will take care of what they have to do and score goals. They did a good job in front of me.”