COLUMBUS -- It might have been the desperation of losing five straight, the urgency of knowing that seven of the next eight games are on the road or a matter of playing to expectations.
Whatever the case, the Columbus Blue Jackets finished strong Saturday night, breaking a 2-2 tie in the third period with three goals for a 5-2 win against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus coach Todd Richards, who characterized his team's performance in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday as an "embarrassment," saw a different effort Saturday.
"We were tight checking in the neutral zone and frustration set in on their side," he said. "To me, that's Blue Jackets hockey."
Ryan Johansen had the first three-point game of his career (one goal, two assists) and Brandon Dubinsky tied his best production with a first-period power-play goal and two assists. R.J. Umberger, Cam Atkinson and James Wisniewski scored in the third.
"We worked well with each other and capitalized," Atkinson said of the newly formed line with Dubinsky and Johansen. "We started and ended how we wanted to."
The Islanders, who got goals from Frans Nielsen in the first period and Thomas Hickey in the second, lost left wing Thomas Vanek for the game to an upper-body injury on his first shift.
New York (6-8-3) twice came back from a deficit to even the score at 2, but has lost three straight in regulation.
Coach Jack Capuano did not have an update on Vanek after the game, but thought the Islanders played well at even strength despite the injury. But the Blue Jackets scored on half of their four man advantages, while New York did not score on its one opportunity.
"Our penalty kill let us down again; 5-on-5 we were right there," he said. "We did a lot of good things."
But the Blue Jackets were in no mood to lose for the seventh time in 10 home games.
"We were strong on the walls, battling in front of the net," Umberger said. "It was a lot of us going to the hard areas. You could see there was a different attitude among the team. We were challenged and we responded. We were all in. We did what we had to do to win."
Umberger scored 27 seconds into the period, 12 seconds after the Blue Jackets went on the power play, to make it 3-2.
Wisniewski took a cross-ice pass from Johansen off the boards and shot from the right point and Umberger was parked in front for the deflection.
"He had it at a perfect height," Umberger said. "When it's in the air like that, it's easier to tip."
Atkinson then made it a two-goal game with a rebound goal after the initial shot by Johansen. Atkinson was left of the net and shoveled a backhander over the glove of Evgeni Nabokov.
"We're not talking systems and structures," Capuano said. "We're talking battle. We lost a battle on Atkinson's goal."
Wisniewski added an empty-net goal from his own goal line after getting the puck from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky with 68 seconds left. Wisniewski leads the League in points by defensemen at home with 11 (two goals, nine assists).
"It's pretty obvious when we want to skate, we're a pretty good team," Atkinson said.
After Dubinsky and Nielsen traded scores, Johansen and Hickey were involved in each other's goals in the second.
First, Johansen gave Columbus (6-10-0) the 2-1 lead at 9:27 after blocking a Hickey shot at the left point. The puck went to Dubinsky, and he sent an outlet to the streaking Johansen just past the red line. With Hickey in pursuit, Johansen skated put a couple of moves on Nabokov to beat him glove side.
"A fast team like the Islanders, you got to make sure you manage the puck well," Johansen said. "I thought we did a good job of getting the pucks out and getting pucks deep in the corners."
The advantage lasted just four minutes, though, when Hickey got the equalizer off a pass from John Tavares. Hickey's shot from the right circle changed directions after hitting Johansen's stick and went over the left shoulder of Bobrovsky while the teams played 4-on-4.
Nabokov was responsible for the Blue Jackets' goal at 6:25 of the first. He used his stick to trip Marian Gaborik to set up the power play, then had Dubinsky's soft backhander go off him and barely fall across the goal line.
Mark Letestu originally tried to fire the puck through from the right point, but it landed on Dubinsky's stick. His attempt went through traffic, including Umberger at the crease, and the puck went off the left post, then hit Nabokov before he could make a save.
The goal was Dubinsky's fourth, but more importantly it gave the Blue Jackets their first lead in 287:06.
New York controlled the rest of the period and tied the score at 19:25, when Nielsen scored on the rush with Eric Boulton providing a screen.
"For whatever reason we're struggling to get to the way we need to play, but we have to figure it out soon here," Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald said.
The Islanders conclude their four-game road trip on Sunday against the Montreal Canadiens.