UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets played with moxie and grit much to the approval of coach John Tortorella.
Vladislav Gavrikov scored late in the third period to lift the surging Blue Jackets over the New York Islanders 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory. The defenseman swiped a backhand past netminder Thomas Greiss at 16:31 for his fourth goal of the season, with assists by Alexandre Texier and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Joonas Korpisalo made 35 saves and Columbus improved to 6-0-2 in its last eight games. The Finnish goaltender has all 17 wins for the Blue Jackets this season, and his team went into the three-day Christmas break on a positive note.
Kevin Stenlund and Nathan Gerbe also scored for the injury-depleted Blue Jackets, who have been winning with a fresh cast in recent weeks. The game had a playoff feel, including several post-whistle skirmishes that riled up both benches and the sellout crowd of 13,917 at Nassau Coliseum.
“It was a grind and I am really happy with the way we stood in there and kept playing. We didn’t lose our composure,” Tortorella said. “There was a little bit of bite. I thought both teams played well.”
Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal scored for the Islanders, who lost their third consecutive game at Nassau Coliseum.
“I’m a little disappointed. I thought we should have a point at least,’’ New York coach Barry Trotz said. “Right now we are making some mistakes and they are winding up in the back of our net.”
Korpisalo made a spectacular save on Lee at the eight-minute mark of the third period on a power play, denying him on the doorstep. Korpisalo also stopped Casey Cizikas on a short-handed breakaway later in the third.
“They had some chances but Korpy made some key saves,’’ Tortorella said. “That’s a hard team to play against and they defend hard.”
Lee opened the scoring at 6:17 of the first when he snapped a shot past Korpisalo. Barzal and Jordan Eberle assisted on Lee’s 11th goal of the season. Lee has five goals and six assists in the past 11 games, and 16 points in 25 career games against Columbus.
“We had our opportunities. We’re still missing a few spots,’’ Lee said. “In the end, we weren’t able to overcome our miscues.”
Stenlund tied it with a power-play goal at 6:18 of the second. With Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk off for elbowing, Stenlund rifled the puck past Greiss for his second goal this season. Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski assisted.
The 23-year-old Swedish forward was playing his ninth NHL game. He scored his first career goal last Tuesday against Detroit.
Gerbe, recalled from AHL Cleveland on Sunday to replace injured Oliver Bjorkstrand, put the Blue Jackets ahead 2-1 at 9:34 of the second. The 32-year-old Gerbe backhanded the puck over Greiss’ shoulder from the left circle near the crease for his first NHL goal since the 2015-16 season when he was playing for Carolina.
“Guys played well and won battles,’’ said the 5-foot-4 Gerbe, a fifth-round draft pick by Buffalo in 2005. “I just wanted to come in and play my game and help out.”
Bjorkstrand is out four to six weeks after sustaining a rib injury/oblique strain against the Devils on Saturday.
Barzal tied it 2-all at 13:40 of the second when he slid the puck past Korpisalo on a wraparound for his team-leading 16th goal. Boychuk and Eberle had assists.
Eberle has five assists in last three games. Barzal, who has scored in each of the last three games, had 18 goals last season.
Columbus is missing a raft of players including forwards Brandon Dubinsky (wrist) and Josh Anderson (shoulder), and defensemen Ryan Murray (lower body) and Markus Nutivarra (upper body).
Tortorella lauded additions like Gerbe who have filled in and helped his team back into the playoff race.
“Gerbe played a tremendous game tonight,’’ the coach said. “It’s a credit to what they are doing down in Cleveland.”
Tortorella tied Jacques Martin for 13th on the career list with 1,294 games coached.
Islanders forward Andrew Ladd played his first NHL game since March 24 when he tore his left ACL. The 34-year-old left wing had played 19 games for AHL Bridgeport this season, with seven goals and two assists. Ladd signed a seven-year, $38.5 million free-agent contract with the Islanders in July 2016 and had 23 goals during his first season with the team and 12 the following year.
Hampered by knee issues last season, he scored only three times in 26 games. “I thought Andrew did some good things,’’ Trotz said. “First time through it was good.”
The Islanders scratched defenseman Scott Mayfield (illness) and forwards Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov. The Islanders were also without Cal Clutterbuck, who needed surgery after getting a serious cut on his left wrist against the Bruins last Thursday night.
The Islanders visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.
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