Blue Jackets top Islanders 3-2 on Atkinson's overtime winner
By DENIS P. GORMAN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — John Tortorella and Doug Weight were only a few feet away from each other.
The mental and emotional distance separating the coaches was another matter following a 3-2 victory by Columbus over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Cam Atkinson delivered the winner for the Blue Jackets 1:19 into overtime.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Tortorella said. “I’m happy to win a close checking one-goal game.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand and Josh Anderson scored 14 minutes, 48 seconds apart in the second period for Columbus, which won for the seventh time in March and improved to 46-18-6.
“We played really well,” said Tortorella, whose Blue Jackets moved to second in the Metropolitan Division race. “I like the way we competed.”
Weight wished he could say the same about his team.
Travis Hamonic and John Tavares scored for New York, which lost for the fourth time in five games (1-3-1).
“We just weren’t good,” Weight said.
This was the regular-season series finale for the Metropolitan Division rivals. When play began Saturday, the Islanders and Tampa Bay trailed Toronto by one point for the final Eastern Conference wild card berth.
With the overtime loss, New York tied Toronto with 78 points, but the Maple Leafs hold the second wild-card position because of fewer regulation losses. The Maple Leafs and Lightning play later Saturday.
Before the game, Tortorella said his team was prepared for New York to attack with heavy pressure. Instead, Columbus outshot New York, 38-22 and controlled much of the game.
“I don’t know if I liked more than one or two shifts in the first two periods,” Weight said.
Hamonic put New York ahead 1-0 with a slap shot at 14:18 of the first period. It was his first goal since Oct. 30 and his third of the season.
“You want to help out,” Hamonic said. “I know I can play better. …I have to play better.”
That Hamonic was in position to give the Islanders a lead was due in part to the play of goaltender Thomas Griess, who made 12 of his 36 saves in the first period.
“(Greiss) kept us in it,” Weight said.
But there was nothing Griess could do on Bjorkstand’s tying goal a minute into the second period. The rookie right wing picked up the puck inside the blue line after New York defenseman Dennis Seidenberg lost it as he fell. He snapped a shot for his sixth goal of the season, over Griess’ glove from the right faceoff dot.
The Blue Jackets went ahead 14:48 later on Anderson’s 16th of the season. Anderson drove to the slot and one-timed a Nick Foligno feed as Brandon Dubinsky provided a screen.
“We found another way to win,” Anderson said.
Columbus’ lead lasted until 8:48 of the third period when Tavares’s shot from inside the blue line eluded Joonas Korpisalo. Korpisalo finished with 20 saves on 22 shots.
“Our goalie made key saves at key times,” Tortorella said.
The game remained tied until Atkinson poked Dubinsky’s pass from behind the net past Greiss for the winner.
“Dubinsky chose the harder route to go behind the net and (found) me to make a great play,” Atkinson said.
NOTES: Columbus entered the day in third place in the Metropolitan Division with 96 points, but Tortorella did not view the Blue Jackets’ third playoff berth a mere formality. “It’s a very dangerous situation when you think that you’re there,” Tortorella said before the game. “And we’re not. We haven’t clinched anything. No one has told me we’re in the playoffs.” With 12 games left in their 2016-17 regular season, the Blue Jackets have set franchise records for wins (45) and points (96). … Tortorella had D Scott Harrington dress in place of Markus Nutivaara. LW Lauri Korpikoski and C Lukas Sedlak were also scratched, while D Ryan Murray missed his third straight game with a broken hand. … Islanders interim coach Doug Weight announced C Casey Cizikas would dress in place of RW Stephen Gionta. Cizikas had missed 11 games with a lower body injury. LW Anthony Beauvillier replaced C Alan Quine and D Scott Mayfield played in place of D Thomas Hickey. … D Johnny Boychuk missed his eighth straight game and LW Shane Prince sat out his sixth straight game, both with a lower body injuries.
Blue Jackets: Visit the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
Islanders: Off until Wednesday when they visit the crosstown-rival Rangers.