Varlamov makes 42 saves, Islanders hold off Blue Jackets 4-3
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Brock Nelson scored his career-high 32nd goal, Semyon Varlamov made 42 saves and the New York Islanders held off the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier and Zach Parise also scored as the Islanders snapped a two-game skid. New York moved within two points of Columbus in the standings, but both teams are well behind Washington for the last Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Vladimir Gavrikov scored twice for Columbus, which lost its fourth straight. Oliver Bjorkstrand also scored and Elvis Merzlikins stopped 25 shots. The Blue Jackets played without coach Brad Larsen, who went into COVID-19 protocol earlier Tuesday, along with assistant Steve McCarthy.
Gavrikov put back a rebounded puck after Patrik Laine’s rifle shot from the blue line at 7:20 of the opening period.
Sixteen seconds into a power play, Nelson beat Merzlikins from the far edge of the left circle to even the game. Bailey scored from the low slot off a feed from Jean-Gabriel Pageau to put the Islanders up 2-1 late in the first.
Anthony Beauvillier bounced one in the net off Merzlikins early in the second period, and Parise tapped in a pass from Noah Dobson to push New York’s lead to 4-1.
Gavrikov got his second of the game with a backhand shot late in the second period, and Bjorkstrand got his career-high 24th goal 4 1/2 minutes into the third to make it 4-3. But the comeback fell short as Varlamov held off a 6-on-4 attack late.
“Any time you’re up 4-1 halfway through the game, you know they’re going to be pressing,” said center Mathew Barzal, who had two assists. “(Varlamov) made some great saves that probably helped us keep the lead.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz was concerned, too.
“The first two periods we were fine,” Trotz said. “We played well. I thought in the third period, we just sat back, we just didn’t play.”
The Blue Jackets outshot New York 16-3 in the final period.
“I thought we were coming back in the third period,” said associate coach Pascal Vincent, standing in for the sidelined Larsen. “Seventy shot attempts, 45 shots on the net — usually you win those games.”
Nelson’s first-period goal was the 200th of his career. He’s been on a tear, racking up 17 goals in 22 games since Feb. 27. He passed the 30-goal mark for the first time in his nine years in the league.
“The way Brock is playing now is pretty great and incredible,” said linemate Anders Lee, who had two assists.
Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski is day-to-day after leaving Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury. Adam Boqvist replaced him in the lineup. ... Islanders G Cory Schneider was called up from on an emergency basis from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Monday after G Ilya Sorokin left Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. He did not make the trip to Columbus. ... Blue Jackets D Andrew Peeke played in his 100th NHL game and got his 12th assist of the season on Gavrikov’s first tally. ... Jakub Voracek extended his points streak to six games for Columbus.
Members of the national champion Ohio State women’s hockey team skated a victory lap before the game and got a standing ovation from the Nationwide Arena crowd. The Buckeyes won the first national title in program history on March 20, beating Minnesota-Duluth 3-2.
The teams move to UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, to complete the home-and-home series on Thursday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports