Blue Jackets shut out Islanders to win opener
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Opening night could not have gone much better for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky began the season with a shutout, newcomer Artemi Panarin contributed three assists in his Columbus debut, Sonny Milano and rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois scored their first NHL goals and the Blue Jackets dominated the New York Islanders in a 5-0 victory at Nationwide Arena.
“It was a good night,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “We played a good 60-minute hockey game.”
Milano scored the first goal a little more than a minute into the new season and the Blue Jackets were off and running.
Five Columbus players had one goal each in the home opener and the dynamic Panarin, acquired during the summer from the Chicago Blackhawks, did his part by creating scoring chances.
Bobrovsky, the Vezina Trophy winner last season as the top goaltender in the NHL, posted his 20th career shutout. He finished with 29 saves.
“It’s always nice,” Bobrovsky said of the opening win. “Definitely I try to enjoy the experience of the game. Obviously, to have that shutout is even better.”
Milano and Cam Atkinson staked the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 lead with first-period goals. Columbus increased the lead to 5-0 with second-period goals from Ryan Murray, Zach Werenski and rookie Dubois.
Murray’s goal came on a one-timer after a pass from Panarin at 6:57 of the second period for a 3-0 lead. The Islanders were essentially toast from that point forward.
”It was disappointing,“ Islanders coach Doug Weight said. ”It seemed a little like deer in the headlights after it was 3-0. We just didn’t react well.
“It’s good to get your face smacked once in a while. We’ll certainly be better tomorrow (in the home opener against Buffalo). We had our faces licking the ice with our sticks. It wasn’t a good reaction.”
The Blue Jackets went ahead 4-0 when Werenski fired a shot from just inside the blue line on a long rebound of a shot by Alexander Wennberg that beat Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss at 10:25 of the second period.
Dubois added his first NHL goal at 11:50 of the second period with an assist from Seth Jones. The 19-year-old Dubois became the fourth Blue Jackets player to score his first NHL goal in his debut as a teenager.
“I thought we started really well,” Dubois said. “It was really fun. I wanted to get that first goal, too.”
The only suspense in the third period was whether Bobrovsky could finish the shutout. The Islanders could not get anything past him despite several prime scoring chances.
“Bob wasn’t that busy, but he made some key saves at key times,” Tortorella said.
Greiss struggled and gave up all five goals on 26 shots before being pulled in the second period and replaced by Jaroslav Halak, who made 11 saves.
“The first period wasn’t that bad,” Griess said. “Maybe a little too cute offensively. They got those first two and we started to get away from what we do well. It’s a good wakeup call for us. Is there panic in here? Not at all.”
The Jackets came out with plenty of energy and Milano scored the first goal of the season just 1:07 into the first period. Skating in from the right circle, Milano took a pass from behind the net from Oliver Bjorkstrand and beat Greiss.
“It was a like a 10-second shift,” Milano said. “I just got out there and the puck landed on my stick and the puck goes into the net. It was pretty cool. It was an unbelievable feeling. I’ve never been happier in my life.”
Atkinson and Panarin combined for what likely will be the first of many goals this season between them at 11:02 of the first period. Panarin rushed the net and sent a backhand pass across the crease that hit Atkinson’s skate and went in to make it 2-0.
Weight was upset because he thought the goal was a kick-in.
“That was surprising to me and it hurt us,” he said. “We didn’t react as well as we had in the preseason. We stopped moving. After that third goal, it was lights out.”
NOTES: Islanders G Jaroslav Halak will start the Islanders’ home opener on Saturday against Buffalo. ... Blue Jackets C Artemi Panarin returns to Chicago on Saturday to face his former team on the back end of back-to-back games against the Blackhawks. ... The Blue Jackets loaned F Josh Anderson to Cleveland of the American Hockey League for conditioning on Thursday. Anderson signed a three-year, $5.5 million contract on Tuesday after missing all of training camp. ... Injured Blue Jackets F Boone Jenner’s consecutive games streak ended at 175. He last missed a game on March 21, 2015. ... Blue Jackets D Markus Nutivaara was sent to Cleveland of the AHL.