UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Blue Jackets were blanked on Long Island today, dropping a 2-0 decision to the last-place New York Islanders in front of 15,008 in Nassau Coliseum.
It was a loss the 10th-place Jackets can ill afford if they want to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. The Jackets were out-played and, of more concern, out-worked by the injury-ravaged Isles.
Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov made 41 saves, but this wasn’t the kind of shutout that showcased the goalie.
Nabokov was very good. The Jackets tipped their hats, then took a long, hard look at themselves.
There was not much to like.
“This clearly isn’t good enough,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. “We got the result that we deserved because we weren’t a good team today.”
New York – fresher, faster and sharper from the start – got goals from Cal Clutterbuck and Travis Hamonic, built a 2-0 lead after two periods and handed the Jackets their third loss in four games.
The shutout loss was the Jackets’ first in the past 46 games and capped a costly three days in which they lost to both of their New York-based divisional rivals and dropped from seventh place to 10th in the Eastern Conference.
“That was just us getting outworked on the road,” Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen said. “Mentally, we weren’t really ready. I thought our legs were OK, but we just weren’t in the right spots at times. We just didn’t have that focus that we had in the last couple and they made us pay.”
The Jackets had four power plays in the third period, when they finally put some sustained pressure on Nabokov, who made a superb glove save on a Cam Atkinson breakaway with 5:53 remaining in regulation. Of the 41 stops Nabokov made in his 58th career shutout, that one was the best.
But it wasn’t a game-saver. The Islanders had held a two-goal cushion for more than 15 minutes by then.
Those goals, Richards said, were “bad.”
Clutterbuck hopped out of the penalty box, waded into the slot and snapped a rebound that settled at his blade past Sergei Bobrovsky at 13:26 of the first period.
Hamonic, who scored once in his previous 57 games, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal in the final minute of the second period. He carried a puck from behind his net straight to the slot in front of Bobrovsky and beat him from 28 feet.
Hamonic was touched once during his trip down Broadway, a glancing tap of the stick of Jackets forward R.J. Umberger.
The second goal was a gift, hand-delivered by a group of Jackets penalty killers with “a lot of crossed wires,” Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said.
“We retreat back and the defense gets a little wide and it’s basically ‘here you go,’ a breakaway coming out from behind the net,” Richards said.
It was a glaring breakdown, but the power play was not better. It failed to convert eight opportunities, extending season-long drought to 0 of 36.
“Special teams makes or breaks you in these crucial games,” Johansen said. “We needed one or the other to step up and neither one was very good.”
Of equal if not more concern was the Jackets’ lack of energy and crispness. It was their third game – and second road game – in four days. The Islanders had not played since Tuesday.
But there is very little let-up in the Jackets' remaining schedule. Eleven games are left. The final eight will be played over 12 days.
“I think at this time of the season, you’ve got to find a way,” Richards said. “You’ve got to dig down. And if your energy isn’t quite at the level it needs to be at then It comes down to game management.
“You’ve got to manage the game better, in how you play, how you handle the puck, the decisions that you make.”
Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said the Jackets’ effort wasn’t up for question, but “if you can’t come to play for at least 20 minutes a night then you ought to take up Putt-Putt or something,” he said.
“Push yourself for 20. Guys tried. But (the Islanders) only needed one to win. That’s a tough pill to swallow, when you can’t score one goal.”
RW R.J. Umberger returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games as a healthy scratch and played most of the game on a line with Nick Foligno and center Artem Anisimov. He had three shots, two hits and won his only faceoff in 14:49 of ice time, including 3:52 on the power play.
The franchise-record power play drought is 0 of 42, set from March 9 to April 1, 2011.
Atkinson took six shots, tying Anisimov for the team-high. He attempted three more that missed the net and has 14 shots in the three games he has played since his last healthy scratch. “It’s hard not to get frustrated,” Atkinson said. “I’m getting all these opportunities and I feel like something has to give. I’m getting chances. But they’ve got to start going in for me.”
Johnson and Dalton Prout were on the ice when Hamonic scored. “It seemed like the defensemen overplayed both sides of the ice and protected the walls a little bit too much. (I was) fortunate to keep skating and it was a pretty big relief to get that one in.”
Clutterbuck scored eight seconds after exiting the penalty box, where he and Blue Jacket Fedor Tyutin were serving concurrent roughing penalties. They were boxed after Clutterbuck charged at Tyutin for hitting him with a slap shot that Tyutin released a split second after a whistle.
The Blue Jackets (78 points/71 games) are scheduled to report to Nationwide Arena at 10 a.m. Monday morning. The eighth-place Detroit Red Wings (79/70, not including a game vs. Minnesota tonight) visit on Tuesday. Massive.
The Jackets lost to the Islanders in regulation for the only the second time. Their first regulation loss was on the Island in 2006. The Jackets are 11-2-4 all-time against the Isles.