COLUMBUS, Ohio — You can add another to that ever-unpleasant list of games standing between the Islanders and playoff security.
Two losses to Arizona, two losses to Nashville, losses in Montreal and Philadelphia and at home to the Blues. On Friday night came the latest, a regrettable 5-4 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets as Boone Jenner scored on a power play just 40 seconds into the extra period.
One bad night, against a Columbus team at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division and on the front end of a back-to-back with a turnaround of just 22 hours, doesn’t undo a month of good work by the Islanders — especially given that they left town in possession of a loser point. But this one slipped through their fingers, make no mistake about it.
The Islanders did not truly impose themselves on this game until the third period, which turned out to be too little, too late.
Goals from Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson within the first eight minutes of the third period tied the score at 4-4, but a poor first 40 minutes came back to haunt the Islanders. Jenner notched the overtime winner for Columbus at four-on-three, tipping Adam Boqvist’s shot in after Anders Lee’s high-sticking penalty carried into the extra period.
For too much of this match, the Islanders seemed to expect a Blue Jackets squad decimated by injuries to just roll out of the way. After a run of games that looked like dress rehearsals for the playoffs, this one looked more like it came out of mid-November.
That paid all the wrong kinds of dividends in a disastrous second period, in which Columbus turned around a 1-0 deficit to take a 4-2 lead into the third period.
Johnny Gaudreau tied the score with a low-left circle wrist shot to make it 1-1 4:58 into the second and even though the Islanders retook the lead just 32 seconds later on Nelson’s one-timer, that did not last long.
Liam Foudy scored from Jack Roslovic at 8:59, beating Noah Dobson in the crease to do so. Then at 17:06, Kent Johnson — a Michigan grad — scored a Michigan goal on Ilya Sorokin on the 27th anniversary of Mike Legg’s original lacrosse-style score for the Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson lifted the puck into the upper-left-hand corner of the net and electrified Nationwide Arena. Forty seconds later, as the Islanders were still regrouping, Eric Robinson scored to put Columbus up 4-2.
Palmieri’s and Nelson’s third-period goals nearly rendered that meaningless, but even against a struggling team, a three-goal comeback in the last 20 minutes, as it turns out, is a heavy lift.
The Islanders had scored first, though it came amid a yawning first period in which they leaned on Sorokin more than they might have liked. A bouncing wrist shot from Zach Parise trickled through Columbus goaltender Michael Hutchinson 13:37 into the match for the 1-0 lead.
It was Parise’s 20th goal of the season, a vindicating milestone for a 38-year-old who was cast off by the Wild two years ago and a mark that made the Parises — Zach and his father, J.P. — the fourth ever father-son duo to put up 20 goals apiece in a season for the same franchise. J.P. Parise did it for the Islanderss twice between 1975 and 1977. Zach Parise is also the first Islander age 38 or older to reach 20 goals.
On a night that ended with two points, that would have surely been worth celebrating for the Islanders. Instead, it is a footnote in a loss for which “disaster” is only a slightly hyperbolic descriptor.
The Islanders have played well enough of late to avoid such monikers off one loss, even one to a team with a 23-41-7 record. But their margin for error is not so wide as to be able to withstand anything resembling a losing streak. Not now, with nine games left in the season and four points between the Islanders and the Panthers, who are below the playoff cutline but with a game in hand.
As close as the postseason has seemed lately, this was a night that emphasized just how far away it still is.