Surging Islanders’ shutout drops struggling Blue Jackets to 0-7
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn’t feel like a big shutout win for Islanders coach Jack Capuano, but he’ll take it.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 37 shots for his 37th career shutout to lead the surging New York Islanders to their fourth straight win, 4-0 over the winless Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night.
Nikolay Kulemin gave the Islanders the lead late in the first period and the contest was a bit of a grind until the later stages.
"It wasn’t a 4-nothing game, I can tell you that," Capuano said. "Jaro played pretty well for us."
Columbus’ sixth-ranked unit had three straight power plays, setting up a chance to tie it in the third period before Thomas Hickey, Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares scored in a late 5 1/2-minute span.
Halak made a second straight start after returning from an upper-body injury sustained during the preseason and flashed his pads to keep Columbus off the scoreboard.
"Guys just stood up, especially on the PK," Halak said. "If there were some rebounds, guys were there."
The Blue Jackets extended their franchise-worst start and became the third team in the NHL’s modern history to open a season 0-7.
Columbus coach Todd Richards thought his team’s play was improved.
"You’re disappointed that you didn’t get the results and right now we need the results," he said. "I guess that’s a little bit of a silver lining. We were better just not good enough."
Curtis McElhinney finished with 25 saves and was steady throughout, making several key saves to keep Columbus within striking distance for most of the night.
McElhinney was making a second start in a row over the beleaguered Sergei Bobrovsky. The former Vezina Trophy winner is 0-5-0 with a 5.07 goals-against-average and .889 save percentage.
Capuano said the Blue Jackets played an engaged game and maybe it’s just about bounces for them right now.
"To me they haven’t had any puck luck to be honest with you," Capuano said. "They had some chances. They played extremely hard here tonight. They were prepared and we were fortunate that we had the puck luck that we had."
Hanging on to a one goal lead, the Islanders gave Columbus every opportunity in the third period to make a game of it before pulling away.
In the first minute, Brandon Dubinsky nearly squeezed a shot through Halak but the goalie reached behind him to cover the puck in the crease.
Soon after, the Islanders took three penalties in just over five minutes: two because of delay of game with New York players sending the puck over the defensive glass.
The first two opportunities for Columbus generated mostly boos from the home crowd as Halak held his ground, smothering long shots by David Savard and Jack Johnson. Then on the third Blue Jackets’ power play, Halak stuck out his right pad to stop Boone Jenner’s stuff and Hickey was there to keep Jenner’s deflected rebound shot from rolling into the net.
"We stuck with it," Clutterbuck said. "I thought Jaro was terrific tonight. They had some good chances and that’s going to happen."
About five minutes later skating 4-on-4, a Columbus giveaway directly led to the Islanders scoring. Blue Jackets defenseman Cody Goloubef’s poor pass was stolen by Hickey, who skated in alone and beat McElhinney with 8:40 left to make it 2-0.
Clutterbuck roved into the zone down the left side with all kinds of room and snapped in a shot with 6:24 remaining.
"I was a little out of my element there," Clutterbuck said. "I had to double check to make sure it actually was a breakaway. I just tried to make a good move on him and luckily it went in."
Tavares added an empty netter a little more than three minutes later for his fourth.
Columbus has been outscored 18-7 in the third period this season.
The Islanders were buzzing around the Columbus goal early, taking a 3-0 shots advantage only 55 seconds into the game. But McElhinney held things together, turning aside different types of shots with Columbus chasing more of the play.
Kulemin finally broke through with 1:02 remaining in the opening period, converting a rebound of a shot by Marek Zidlicky. Anders Lee nearly added to the lead with seconds remaining but McElhinney made a stretching toe save.
NOTES: The NHL’s longest losing streak to begin a season is 11 set by the 1943-44 New York Rangers. The 1997-98 Blackhawks, coached by current Blue Jackets associate coach Craig Hartsburg, were the last team to start 0-7-0. … The Islanders played only their second road game (1-1-0) this season. … The Blue Jackets lead the all-time series 14-5-1-3. … Columbus plays its next four games, and seven of eight, on the road. … Tavares has five goals and seven assists in his past seven games against Columbus.