Barzal, Varlamov lead Islanders to 2-0 win over Blue Jackets
However, Greiss left the game late in the first period and Varlamov had to go right in.
“I just played (the) game,” said Varlamov, who finished with 30 saves to earn his 27th career shutout. “Sometimes it is easier when you go in and you didn’t think about the whole game. … It (happened) quick. I just had to go out there and get ready. I only had 30 seconds, I think.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz believes it can sometimes be good for a goalie to come off the bench in that kind of situation.
“It’s a little bit of shock therapy,” he said. “You have to go in survival mode so you lock right in and go on your instincts and determination and all that. … He responded well.”
Anders Lee also scored to help the Islanders get a win in their return from an 0-2-1 California trip that ended a franchise-record 17-game point streak.
“We (knew) how important this game (was) for us,” Varlamov said. “We lost three in a row, so it was important to come with our ability and then play our good game. And I think we did a lot of good things today. Played very solid hockey.”
Greiss made nine saves before leaving with 5:54 left in the first period. He skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and told Trotz he wasn’t feeling well and was a little dizzy.
Elvis Merzlikins finished with 25 saves as the 25-year-old Latvian fell to 0-3-3 in his rookie season for the Blue Jackets.
Columbus had a flurry of chances near the midpoint of the third, but couldn’t beat Varlamov, who drew chants of “Varly! Varly!” throughout the period. He stopped a try by Oliver Bjorkstrand from the middle, a shot by Seth Jones from the left circle and Gustav Nyquist’s attempt in front. Varlamov had a stick save on Nyquist in front with 8:42 left.
“Varly did a really good job,” Trotz said. “He made some really timely saves, he looked huge in the net and was real confident all around.”
The Blue Jackets pulled Merzlikins with about 4 1/2 minutes left, and went on a power play with three minutes remaining for a 6-on-4 advantage, but couldn’t beat Varlamov.
“I thought we played well,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. ”We weren’t able to finish. We ended up with some opportunities. I thought we had some good forechecking. We didn’t score.”
Varlamov’s best save of the second was a glove stop on Bjorkstrand at 8:10, and he also denied Riley Nash on the doorstep about 1 1/2 minutes later to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard.
Barzal made it 2-0 as he skated up the left side, outraced Bjorkstrand on a breakaway, went toward the middle and then beat Merzlikins with a backhander with 3:59 left in the middle period.
“It’s nice to get back (home) and get a quick ‘W’ and feel good about our game a little bit,” Barzal said. “Varly comes in there and plays really well for us. Our (defense) had great gaps and forced a lot of turnovers, which helps our offense, so just a full team effort.”
Lee got the Islanders on the scoreboard just 1:18 in. Josh Bailey got a pass from Barzal on the right side of the goal and sent it back to Lee in the slot, and the captain fired it past Merzilikins for his sixth. It was Lee’s first goal since Nov.1, snapping an 11-game drought.
Lee nearly double the lead about 3 1/2 minutes in, but was denied by Merzlikins. Anthony Beauvillier had a chance six minutes later, but his shot on a rush from the right side was gloved by the Columbus goalie. Merzlikins made a great blocker save on a slap shot by Scott Mayfield with 7:44 left in the first.
Sonny Milano got one past Varlamov with 1:05 left in the first, but it hit the crossbar.
NOTES: Barzal ended a three-game point-scoring drought, and now has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last 10 games. … New York improved to 8-2-1 when scoring first, and 12-0-1 when leading after two periods. … Bailey was whistled for interference on Jones with 3:01 left with the game’s only penalty. … The Blue Jackets had scored first in 10 straight games. … Columbus D Zach Werenski left the game early in the first period. He was down on the ice for several minutes before skating off while favoring his right shoulder and headed straight to the dressing room. The Blue Jackets later announced he would not return. … The Blue Jackets fell to 0-8-3 when giving up the first goal, and 3-9-0 when trailing after two periods.
Blue Jackets: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.
Islanders: At Detroit on Monday night to open a two-game trip.