UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders played tough defense, and Thomas Greiss took care of the rest.
Greiss made 31 saves in his fifth shutout of the season, helping the Islanders beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 on Monday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Ryan Pulock and Anders Lee scored as New York (40-22-7) bolstered its playoff positioning in the tough Metropolitan Division. The Islanders improved to 16-8-1 against divisional opponents.
"We played Islanders hockey," coach Barry Trotz said. "More than anything we raised our battle level. That's where it starts. At the end of the day Greiss made a couple of saves that were key, we got some key blocks and that's how the Islanders win."
Columbus (38-28-3) lost for the fourth time in six games, dropping into a tie with Montreal for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference. Sergei Bobrovsky made 18 saves, but the Blue Jackets were unable to get to the steady Greiss.
"It's a team that has been able to score goals this year but since the deadline, we've been inconsistent," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "It's frustrating but I liked the way we played, I liked the way we forechecked. I liked a lot of things about our game but we just did not finish."
Columbus has been shut out twice in its last three games. It has scored two goals or fewer in five of its last six games.
Pulock put the Islanders in front when he drove a slap shot by Bobrovsky 6:11 into the first. Pulock surpassed his point total from his rookie year, registering his 33rd point of his sophomore season.
Cal Clutterbuck assisted on the play in his first game back since being sidelined for three games with a minor upper-body injury.
"Whole team was battling," said Greiss, who shut out the Blue Jackets for the second time this season. "We didn't give them too much, we played a tight game. Most of the shots came from the outside, guys did a great job of blocking shots."
In recent matchups against Philadelphia and Ottawa, the Islanders' attention to detail had slipped, allowing 15 goals in four games. Facing Columbus in another big game, they returned to the disciplined philosophy Trotz has preached since his arrival.
"We were trying to play smart," alternate captain Josh Bailey said. "We still want to be aggressive when the time presents itself but first and foremost we want to take care of business in our own end. Sometimes that requires just making the trip out of the zone and getting fresh guys out there."
Early in the second period, Josh Anderson and Casey Cizikas received matching roughing minors after the Blue Jackets forward delivered a late check into the boards on a delayed offside. Anderson also was penalized for an illegal hit on Clutterbuck late in the first.
The Blue Jackets' best offensive chance came in the middle frame when Cam Atkinson rang a wrist shot off the post. Columbus also came up empty on three power-play opportunities.
"We do everything but score," captain Nick Foligno said. "We have to get serious about getting some run support for our goalies. It's the only way you're going to win. We have to bear down."
Lee added an empty-netter in the final period.
"We are a different team," Lee said. "Everything has been put in place for these situations for us to not only be confident, in a position to just shut them down. ... These two points are worth more than two. This was a big one tonight."
NOTES: Islanders D Johnny Boychuk did not play after being injured on an illegal check from Flyers F Jakub Voracek in Saturday's game. ... Islanders G Robin Lehner has participated in on-ice work the past two days after sustaining an injury from a collision, but remains day to day. ... Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner was sidelined with an illness and did not play despite making the trip to Long Island.
Islanders: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
Blue Jackets: Host the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.Published 12 Mar 2019, 08:36 IST