The New York Islanders keep finding ways to win games. The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to devise new means to lose them.
The surging Islanders look to complete their road trip with another positive result in Saturday night's matchup against a Columbus team still reeling from Sergei Bobrovsky's injury.
New York (16-8-5) has recorded four one-goal victories over a 5-0-1 stretch and has earned a point in eight straight following Tuesday's 4-3 shootout triumph in Philadelphia. The Islanders' last three wins have come in shootouts.
The Islanders improved to 6-0-2 over their last eight despite being outshot 46-26 by the Flyers and captain John Tavares held without a point for a third straight game. Frans Nielsen picked up the offense with a pair of goals, however, and Jaroslav Halak made 43 saves before stopping all three attempts in the shootout.
"Even in the few scrambles in front, guys beared down and were able to keep the puck out for me," Halak told the NHL's official site. "It was a big two points for us, but we have to play better, we all know that."
The Islanders have leaned on Halak and fellow goaltender Thomas Greiss during this strong run. Halak has posted a 1.88 goals-against average over his last five starts and Greiss owns a 1.95 mark in winning his past three. Both are expected to play in a back-to-back sequence ending with Sunday's home date against New Jersey.
Halak had 37 saves in a 4-0 win in Columbus on Oct. 20 that led to the Blue Jackets firing coach Todd Richards. Though Columbus (11-17-2) has gone a respectable 11-10-2 under replacement John Tortorella, it's lost two straight and won't have Bobrovsky for three weeks after the veteran goaltender sustained a lower-body injury Tuesday against Los Angeles.
The Blue Jackets had a one-goal lead over the Kings when Bobrovsky left late in the third period. Curtis McElhinney allowed two in his place in an eventual 3-2 overtime loss, then surrendered three goals on Winnipeg's first five shots in Thursday's 6-4 defeat to the Jets.
Scott Hartnell did score in a third straight game for Columbus, while Cam Atkinson had two third-period goals to bring the Jackets within 5-4 before the Jets had an empty-netter late.
"We can break it down all you want as far as a push here and a push there, but we didn't play well enough to win," Tortorella said. "We had a push at the end but we didn't play well enough in all areas. We need more in the middle part of that game, and that's an area of our game we need to get better at."
Columbus has historically had success at home in this series, though New York is 2-0-1 at Nationwide Arena after notching just one victory in its first 10 visits.
Tavares has scored in four straight meetings, amassing five goals and four assists during that span. Halak is 4-0-2 with a 2.27 GAA in his last six against Columbus and snapped a personal five-game skid at Nationwide Arena with his Oct. 20 shutout.
The Islanders are 5-0-2 against the Metropolitan Division after compiling a 21-6-3 mark last season.