NEW YORK — Jaroslav Halak came up big in the first period, keeping the New York Islanders close until they rallied in the third period for a needed win.
Halak made 25 of his 46 saves in the opening period, then saw Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson score in the third to help the Islanders beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 Saturday night.
“It’s a big win. Those are two points we really need,” said Halak, who improved to 16-15-3 on the season. “It’s really huge for the team.”
Columbus led 3-2 heading into the third after Nick Foligno scored on a breakaway late in the second. The Blue Jackets outshot the Islanders 26-12 in the first period and 40-28 through 40 minutes, dominating the game for significant stretches.
“We’re not sitting here feeling good if Jaro doesn’t have that first period,” New York coach Doug Weight said. “I think he was the only one that got the memo that it was a 7 o’clock start.”
However, Eberle tied it 3-3 with his 18th goal at 2:49 of the third when he corralled a loose puck at the top of the slot and whipped it past backup Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo.
Eberle also credited his goalie for keeping the Islanders in the game.
“We need to find way to play a full 60 minutes, not just 40 minutes,” Eberle said. “Jaro was there to stand tall for us. Those 26 shots in the first period, I don’t think I ever saw anything like that.”
Nelson managed to redirect a rebound past Korpisalo at 5:14 of the third for his 11th of the season and only his second goal since Dec. 7. Andrew Ladd and Ryan Pulock had assists on the goal two seconds after a penalty to Columbus rookie forward Pierre-Luc Dubois had expired.
“We found a way to lose tonight,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “I think we self-destructed a little bit.”
The Blue Jackets also lost at home on Friday to San Jose and have dropped six of their last eight. They are one point ahead of the Islanders in the closely bunched Metropolitan Division race.
Nick Leddy and Josh Bailey also scored for the Islanders, who won for the first time in three games since the All-Star break. They lost the first two by combined 9-1 margin against Florida and Toronto.
Josh Anderson and Cam Atkinson also scored for Columbus. Korpisalo finished with 34 saves.
Late in the second, Foligno swooped down on Halak after Oliver Bjorkstrand sent him a perfect pass from the defensive zone and slid a backhand along the ice past Halak with 1:57 left for his 10th goal of the season.
Foligno was frustrated by the outcome especially considering his team’s strong beginning.
“We have lapses that don’t allow us to take over games,” he said. “I loved our first. We were aggressive and dictated the pace. But we allowed them back in the third and we didn’t have an answer.”
Bailey had put the Islanders up 2-1 at 11:14 of the second with his 13th goal.
Atkinson quickly tied it at 12:36 when he rifled the puck by Halak after linemate Artemi Panarin intercepted the puck from Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. Panarin, acquired from Chicago last June, leads the Blue Jackets in assists with 29 and points with 42.
Atkinson’s eighth goal of the season extended his points streak to four games.
Anderson opened the scoring for Columbus at 6:12 of the first period with his 16th of the season on the power play. Dubois and Jussi Jokinen had assists on the first career power-play goal for the 23-year-old Anderson who has 34 career goals.
Leddy’s point shot with 2:22 left in the first eluded Korpisalo to knot the score at 1. John Tavares and Mathew Barzal recorded assists on Leddy’s seventh goal and his first in 30 games. Leddy’s previous tally came Nov. 24 against Philadelphia.
But the hero of the night was clearly Halak, who has faced barrage most nights in recent weeks. The Islanders have allowed more than 40 shots five times in their last nine games and more than 30 shots in 19 straight contests.
“I’m tired,” the 32-year-old goalie said. “I need to get some sleep.”
Columbus won the previous two meetings between the teams in Ohio by a combined score of 11-4. The teams meet once more on Feb. 13 at Barclays Center.
NOTES: The Islanders are 12-1-0 on Saturdays and they are 24-6-2 when scoring at least three goals. … The Islanders scratched forwards Alan Quine and Ross Johnston plus defenseman Sebastian Aho. … Columbus scratched forward Markus Hannikainen and defensemen Scott Harrington and Cameron Gaunce.
Islanders: Host Nashville on Monday night.
Blue Jackets: Host Washington on Tuesday night.