Casey Cizikas scored two goals and Thomas Greiss posted a 31-save shutout, as the New York Islanders beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night.
The shutout win over a Metro Division rival wasn't necessarily a statement for the Islanders, but rather a response, a solid bounce-back effort to put the bitter taste of Buffalo behind them.
"We got back to playing what we call Islander hockey," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "It's a good response. We've had good confidence, we're not scared to go into any building. We have a lot of trust in our game, trust in our personnel. We knew it was going to be a tough game to come in and win hockey game. We responded the right way."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Cizikas goes to backhand on breakaway
CIZIKAS LIGHTS THE LAMP TWICE:
Ahead of Thursday's game, Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson warned of the effect that Casey Cizikas' line has on games - and he didn't just cite physicality either.
"Any time that line is out there they can hurt you," Atkinson aptly warned. "Not only can they bang you, they can also score and change the momentum in a matter of seconds."
Cizikas proved Atkinson right, as he scored a pair of goals for his 14th and 15th tallies of the season, padding what's already been an impressive career-year in the goal department.
"He's maturing as a player," Trotz said. "The one thing that was said to me by a few different people in the past was that their line was to go out and hit, go out and hit, but they can actually make plays when they play the right way."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Cizikas goes five-hole for second goal
Both of Cizikas' goals came via breakaway, first sliding a backhand deke by Sergei Bobrovsky (24 saves) after being sprung by Cal Clutterbuck at 7:06 of the first period. The second goal came in the middle frame, as Josh Bailey disrupted a Columbus zone entry, allowing Devon Toews to send a stretch pass out to Cizikas, who mixed things up with a forehand move and a five-hole finish at 5:50.
"There's not too many times you get a couple breakaways in a game, it's kind of rare, so to be able to capitalize on them and get some big goals was definitely nice," Cizikas said.
The game was Cizikas' second two-goal game of his career and first since Oct. 7, 2017 vs Buffalo. Cizikas also won 12 of 21 face-offs on Thursday and appreciated the respect his line received from the opposition.
"It's a tip of the cap to the way we've been playing this year," Cizikas said.
Video: Greiss earns Thursday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout
GREISS RECORDS THIRD SHUTOUT IN FIVE GAMES:
The best way to silence the cannon in Columbus - pitch a shutout.
Thomas Greiss saved the Isles eardrums on Thursday, making 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season - a career-high - and third in his last five starts.
Greiss is on an absolute heater, improving to 5-0-1 in his last six games, stopping 185-of-188 shots in the process. The Islanders goalie has three shutouts over that span and has only allowed three total goals. The run has sent Greiss to the top of the NHL in save percentage (.930), supplanting teammate Robin Lehner (.929).
"It's remarkable," Cizikas said. "He's been outstanding and whenever we go into a game with the two netminders we have right now, we have a lot of confidence."
Greiss even earned a secondary assist on Cizikas' first goal, poking the puck out of danger with Artemi Panarin and Scott Harrington bearing down on his crease, to Clutterbuck. The assist was Greiss's first of the season and third point of his career.
Greiss did get some help from his d-corps, as the Isles blocked 21 shots on Thursday and gave the Blue Jackets fits all night.
"Sometimes you just get lucky, the puck bounces your way," Greiss said. "It was a great team road game, we played a tight game and played hard, everyone was going."
Video: NYI@CBJ: Bailey taps loose puck into open net
KUHNHACKL IN FOR DAL COLLE:
Tom Kuhnhackl drew into the lineup for Michael Dal Colle on Thursday night, skating alongside Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey.
The new-look line came together on Bailey's 13th goal of the season, extending the Islanders' lead to 3-0 at 19:19 of the second period. Barzal fed Kuhnhackl, whose blocked shot found its way to Bailey for a quick tap-in.
"I thought he did great," Bailey said of Kuhnhackl. "He's a complete player who makes a lot of heady plays. Watching him throughout the season and in practice, he's got a little offensive streak to him too that's just waiting to come out. Hopefully we can keep growing as a line."
The Islanders take on the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night in their last regular season game at Barclays Center this season.