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Islanders hand Blue Jackets seventh straight loss

by Craig Merz / NHL.com

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their seventh straight game to start the season Tuesday, shut out by Jaroslav Halak and the New York Islanders 4-0 at Nationwide Arena.

Halak made 37 saves for his first shutout of the season. Nikolay Kulemin, Thomas Hickey, Cal Clutterbuck and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have won four in a row (4-1-1).

After the Blue Jackets' power play failed to tie the score on three successive attempts in the third period, the Islanders responded with three goals in 5:26.

Columbus, which was 0-for-6 with the man-advantage, is the seventh team in NHL history to start a season with seven straight regulation losses and the first since the Chicago Blackhawks in 1997-98. The Blue Jackets (0-7-0) will play seven of their next eight games on the road.

"This isn't a lack of effort," Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Guys are trying, I promise you that. Coaches can't play for us. It's 100 percent not on them. Times are tough right now and we have to stay together."

The Blue Jackets have been outscored 21-8 in losing four home games.

"It's disappointing in the sense for a good part of the game we played some good hockey, but it wasn't good enough," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "Right now we need results."

Halak, who recorded his 37th career shutout, praised his teammates and expressed surprise at the Blue Jackets' demise.

"The guys stood up, especially the PK," he said. "It's tough when you're struggling like that. At the [start] of the season, no one imagined Columbus would be one of those teams. Look at the lineup. There's pretty good hockey players over there. It's just not clicking."

After the penalty kills in the third period, Hickey, Clutterbuck and Tavares scored to put the game away.

"We had the momentum going at that time," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We made it tough on them because they had their opportunities."

Hickey's goal with 8:40 left came off a turnover by Columbus defenseman Cody Goloubef.

Clutterbuck made it 3-0 with a wrist shot from the left circle at 13:36 and Tavares extended his point streak to four games with an empty-net goal at 16:46.

"It wasn't a 4-0 game, I'll tell you that," Capuano said. "[Halak] played pretty well for us tonight."

The Blue Jackets reached the nadir of futility in the third period on their three power plays in the first seven minutes. The first two penalties against the Islanders were for delay of game and Columbus got one shot on each of the power plays.

Halak came up big on the next kill, making three saves, including two with the right pad against Bonne Jenner. On the second attempt, the puck bounced over Halak's pad but was cleared away by Hickey.

"We were unable to capitalize. It's disappointing," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "It's our job, those guys on the power play. We were given an opportunity to win the game. You've got to score goals."

The Islanders weathered the storm, then put the game away. It was a sign of maturity, according to Clutterbuck.

"At times last year, or in the past, we might get anxious in a 1-0 game and we'd get a little impatient but I thought we stuck with it," he said. "They had some good chances, maybe not Grade-A, maybe B-plus opportunities. Our goalie is going to stop them."

The Islanders took a 1-0 lead on Kulemin's second goal of the season with 1:02 left in the first period against Columbus goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who had 25 saves in his second straight start in place of Sergei Bobrovsky.

Halak nearly lost his shutout 23 seconds into the third on a shot by Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky from between the circles. After making the initial save, the puck fell behind Halak but he reached back with his glove and grabbed the puck inches from the goal line.

"The bounces are going our way. The bounces aren't going their way," Capuano said. "They haven't had any puck luck to be honest with you. They were prepared and we were fortunate we had the puck luck we had and we capitalized on the chances we had."

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