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Big second period helps Islanders top Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz /

COLUMBUS -- On the day leading scorer John Tavares was named to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, the New York Islanders didn't need offense from him in a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday at Nationwide Arena.

Five Islanders scored, including the first goal in nearly a year by defenseman Brian Strait, and Ryan Strome and Thomas Hickey each had two assists.

Tavares, who has 39 points, was held off the scoresheet for the third time in the past 10 games.

Nikolay Kulemin scored 31 seconds into the game, and Matt Martin, Anders Lee and Strait gave the Islanders a 4-1 lead after two periods. Kyle Okposo scored for the Islanders in the third.

The Islanders (28-13-1) have won four of six on a road trip that ends Tuesday against the New York Rangers. They won in regulation in Columbus for the first time in 11 games all-time.

Tavares was one of four players on the ice named Saturday to the All-Star Game to be played in Columbus on Jan. 25 (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports). He is the lone Islanders representative. The Blue Jackets will have goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forwards Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen.

Although Johansen had an assist on a third-period goal by Foligno to cut the Islanders lead to 4-2, and Bobrovsky made 35 saves, it was another forgettable game for the Blue Jackets after losing 5-2 at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday.

Columbus (18-19-3) has lost two in a row for the first time since Nov. 28-29.

"I don't know what the reason is," Foligno said. "It's frustrating to play like that. We didn't play our best in Toronto, and to come out here and not have the start we wanted and have them take over in the second, we've got to find a way to play within our structure. We're not playing as a team. We're not skating as a team."

New York's speed created havoc throughout, but the Islanders couldn't break a 1-1 tie until getting three goals in a 7:27 span of the second.

The Islanders outshot the Blue Jackets 16-4 in the first period.

"The first period might have been even better" than the second, Strait said. "We just didn't score as much. The shots told the story. We had the puck in their zone about 85 percent of the time."

New York took a 2-1 lead with 9:56 left in the second off the rush with Hickey sending a pass cross-ice to Strome on the right wing. Martin redirected Strome's pass just outside the crease, leaving Bobrovsky no chance to react, for his sixth goal.

After going eight games without a goal, Martin has two in three games.

Lee converted a turnover with 6:23 left for a 3-1 lead. The puck skipped Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski at center ice, and Kevin Connauton whiffed on a clearance at the blue line. That's all the space Lee needed to skate in alone on Bobrovsky and beat him with a backhand shot for his 10th goal.

Strait scored four minutes later when he controlled a loose puck and his shot went in off Johansen's stick. Before the puck came to Strait, it had been deflected high into the air.

"It was going to fall to somebody," he said. "It was funny. It felt like it was in the air a minute and a half. It felt like I was the only one who knew where it was. I just tried to get some wood on it. When you throw it on net, sometimes good things happen."

Strait, who also had an assist, had not scored since Jan. 18 against the Philadelphia Flyers. He had not played in 11 games before getting back into the lineup for New York's 3-2 overtime win at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

"I hadn't played in about a month," Strait said. "Last game was my first one. I felt a little more comfortable this game. It's one of those things you've got to go back in there and try to be comfortable and play as confident as possible."

Islanders goalie Chad Johnson, playing for the first time since Dec. 23, made 16 saves. He appreciated the work his teammates did in front of him to get the lead.

"It was a good period," Johnson said. We played our game, and for the most part the puck was in their end."

Columbus coach Todd Richards noticed.

"We've not been able to sustain offensive-zone time like we have in the past," he said. "Our first period, they were skating. We were watching. We didn't execute well tonight."

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