A big defensive effort was the key for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It just wasn't quite enough.
The Blue Jackets were in New York to face the Islanders on Saturday night from UBS Arena. Coming off their first win in six games, the Blue Jackets hoped to make it two in a row, but a tough start to the season was compounded by the injury front.
Forced to finish Thursday's win over the Philadelphia Flyers short-handed, down to four defensemen, and even having forward Mathieu Olivier playing defense, worst fears were confirmed on Friday when it was announced that Zach Werenski would miss the rest of the season with a separated shoulder and torn labrum.
Erik Gudbranson also left Thursday's game in the second period and is considered day-to-day. Nick Blankenburg played the whole game on Thursday, even scoring an empty-net goal, but on Friday, it was announced he suffered a broken ankle and high ankle sprain during the third period and will miss 6-8 weeks.
The team was already missing Jake Voracek (out indefinitely, upper body) and Sean Kuraly (upper body, day to day), and both are now on injured reserve since Friday. Kent Johnson missed the last game for precautionary reasons and is now considered healthy, but was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
All of the injuries of course meant a flurry of roster moves as Gavin Bayreuther and Jake Christiansen were recalled from the Cleveland Monsters on Friday, as was Marcus Bjork who made his NHL debut against the Islanders.
Ilya Sorokin stopped 26 saves on 29 shots in the Islanders' 4-3 overtime win. Joonas Korpisalo made his third consecutive start for Columbus, stopping 42 of 46 shots.
A Trio of Firsts
It took a little longer than Cole Sillinger would have liked for him to score his first goal of the 2022-23 season. Yet, his power-play goal at 3:09 of the second period couldn't have come at a better time. It's also the Blue Jackets' first power-play goal on American soil as the first two by the team took place against the Colorado Avalanche while in Finland last weekend.
Emil Bemstrom scored his first goal of the season at 10:15 as he emerged from the pack all alone, scoring off his backhand. Gus Nyquist added an assist—his 100th career point as a Blue Jacket—and Jake Bean earned his second point of the night.
Bjork completed the first goal trifecta in the third period as his first career NHL goal, in his NHL debut no less, broke a 2-2 tie at 9:38. Nyquist picked up his second point of the night as did Bemstrom, earning his first assist of the season.
The Swedes sure had a good night as Bemstrom, Bjork, and Nyquist combined for five points (two goals, three assists). Bjork is the first defenseman in Blue Jackets history to score a goal in his NHL debut.
New Look Defense
Bayreuther (four goals, zero assists in Cleveland), Christiansen (zero goals, four assists in Cleveland), and Bjork (two goals, three assists in Cleveland) all got their shot against the Islanders on Saturday night. While Bayreuther appeared in one game this season against the Bruins in the 4-0 loss on Oct. 28, Christiansen made his season debut after appearing in eight games last season for Columbus.
Bjork, a free agent signing in May after spending four seasons in the Swedish Hockey League, made his NHL debut.
Bjork had the night of a lifetime scoring his first career goal in his first career game. For the night, he had two shots, one blocked shot, and four hits in 15:01 ice time. Bayreuther was -2 with one shot, three blocked shots, and two hits in 18:50. Christiansen had three shots, two blocked shots, and one hit in 18:07.
The Islanders were 0-for-2 on the power play, having all eight shots stopped. The Blue Jackets had the final edge in blocked shots, 20-17, takeaways, 5-3, and hits, 19-15. Eric Robinson played in his 200th career game.
Korpisalo's Strong Play
If there's one thing you can point to of late for the Blue Jackets, it's been Korpisalo's strong play in the net over the last week.
He had a tough test against the Avalanche on Nov. 5, but a win over the Flyers on Thursday, and then a steady dose of shots faced, but saved, against the Islanders have helped cure what has ailed most of the season: Steady play from within the Blue Jackets net and making the saves that need to be made.
Entering third-period play on the season coming into Saturday's game, the Islanders were first in the NHL with 25 goals for, seventh in goals against with 13 allowed, and their +12 differential was second in the league.
For the game, the Islanders had the 5v5 xGF edge, 3.3-2.31.
While Korpisalo and the rest of the Jackets couldn't fend off a resilient Islanders bunch, who fired off 46 shots and forced the tying goal three times before finishing off the win in overtime, it was a gutty performance by Columbus. Korpisalo, finally healthy, has made the most of his few opportunities so far.
The Blue Jackets head back home to begin a season-long six-game homestand when they face the Flyers on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 pm ET. The Flyers lost on Saturday, 4-1, to the Ottawa Senators at Wells Fargo Center.