Elmont, NY– The New York Islanders signed Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat to matching eight-year contracts with the expectation the duo would be a lethal combination on their top line.
On Thursday night, Barzal and Horvat earned their keep as they both scored twice in a 7-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at UBS Arena.
“If you want to be considered a top guy and make a difference on this team, we got to go and do that job,” Horvat said. “Tonight, me and [Barzal] went and did that.”
Barzal and Horvat now sit at nine goals each this season.
With a little more than a minute to play in the second, a bouncing puck landed perfectly on Barzal’s waiting stick at the left faceoff circle for him to bury with a one-timer, pushing the Islanders ahead 3-2. He struck again in the third to give the Islanders a much-needed two-goal cushion.
But with the Islanders’ history of blowing leads this season, Horvat added two more to the scoreboard for good measure.
Out skating two Blue Jacket defenders, Horvat collected his own rebound and used a wrap-around to push the Islanders’ lead to 6-3. He scored once again 20 seconds later just to be safe.
“It seems like every time we get a scoring chance, it’s in the back of the net,” Barzal said. “That’s a great thing playing with an opportunist like Bo. You give him a chance or two; they’re going in the back of the net, and we saw that tonight.”
The atmosphere inside UBS Arena at the final horn was much different than it was earlier in the game.
The boo birds within the minute crowd made their presence known as the Islanders dragged through the start of the second period.
Lazy turnovers pinned them in their own zone, allowing Emil Bemstrom and Adam Fantilli to give the Jackets a 2-1 lead. But when the red light flashed for Cal Clutterbuck’s fourth goal of the season to tie the game, both the Islanders and the crowd jolted back to life.
As the nine other skaters on the ice battled for the puck along the half wall, the always clever Clutterbuck snuck into the slot all alone and collected a smart pass from Hudson Fasching to beat Columbus netminder Spencer Martin with a quick snapshot.
“It was a great entry by them,” Kyle Palmieri said. “Fasching knew Clutterbuck was over there on the weak side, and Clutterbuck did a good job collecting and beating the goalie. That was a huge goal for us.”
Palmieri potted a goal himself. His strike on the man advantage with under a minute to play in the second was his seventh of the season. The Islanders have now scored on the power play in five straight games, inflating their season percentage to 26%.
The Islanders’ penalty kill has also been solid lately. Although they weren’t perfect, they killed off their one chance against Columbus as Semyon Varlamov stood tall in goal. Varlamov made 32 of 35 saves in the win, allowing the goal to Bemstrom and two to Fantilli.
Pierre Engvall opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season four minutes into the first period. Noah Dobson found Engvall with a pass at the backdoor of the Columbus goal for his 18th assist of the year. Dobson is fifth among defensemen league-wide in assists and has six in his last four games.
The win improves the Islanders’ record to 11-7-7 and helps mitigate the sting of what was their latest loss in overtime on Tuesday to the San Jose Sharks.
“We kept pushing,” coach Lane Lambert said. “We knew we’d be in that position. We figured we’d probably be in that position again tonight. Our guys did a great job of responding and doing what they needed to do by staying aggressive.”
The Islanders will continue their season-long homestand Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.