COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Platooning two goalies is working out just fine for coach Barry Trotz and the surprising New York Islanders.
Thomas Greiss took his turn Thursday night and responded by stopping 31 shots and picking up his fourth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The 33-year-old German improved to 17-8-2 and stayed neck-and-neck with teammate Robin Lehner, who is 17-9-4. The Islanders, who began the night three points ahead of Washington atop the Metropolitan Division, won for the fifth time in seven games.
Greiss was outstanding in getting his 12th career shutout and third his last five starts, and the Islanders showed why they are tops in the NHL in keeping opponents' pucks out of their net. Greiss lowered his goals-against average to 2.18 — second in the NHL to Lehner's 2.08.
"They've both been good, and we've been keeping them fresh," Trotz said. "Both have responded, so there's no reason to sort of ride one when we can probably ride both of them. We'll see."
After turning away every Columbus shot, Greiss deflected the credit.
"The boys make me look good out there," he said. "Everybody is battling hard, a lot of blocked shots, no rebounds, so it was a great team win."
Casey Cizikas scored twice on breakaways, and Josh Bailey also had a goal for New York.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 24 saves for the Blue Jackets, who are tied with Pittsburgh with 67 points but hold third place in the Metropolitan due to a game in hand. The loss was a letdown for Columbus, which seemed to have momentum after shutting out the Capitals by the same score on Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets certainly had opportunities, but Greiss wasn't having any of it.
The first period ended with a 1-0 Islanders lead, thanks to Cizikas' breakaway , set up by a stretch pass from Cal Clutterbuck 7:06 into the game.
Later, Columbus' Josh Anderson got his own breakaway from the blue line but Greiss kept it out. Anderson broke away again later in the period but shot right at the goalie.
"We had opportunities early to get back in the game, to tie it and we didn't," Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
Cizikas got behind the defense again after a Columbus turnover and beat Bobrovsky between the pads to give New York a 2-0 lead at 5:50 of the second.
"There's not too many times you get two breakaways in a game," Cizikas said, "It's kind of rare, so I was able to capitalize on them and get some big goals. It was definitely nice."
Bailey found an open net after a rebound left Bobrovsky out of position with 41 seconds left in the second to extend the lead.
New York has allowed just 136 goals, best in the NHL.
"Whenever we go into a game with the two netminders that we have right now, we have a lot of confidence, and we believe in each other," Cizikas said.
NOTES: New York's Anders Lee played his 400th career NHL game, all with the Islanders. ... Columbus F Brandon Dubinsky missed his fifth game with a hip injury. He is day-to-day. ... The Islanders are 10-2-2 in their last 14 games. ... Columbus has killed 41 of 42 penalties dating back to Dec. 31.
Islanders: Host Edmonton in the regular season finale at Barclays Center on Saturday night.
Blue Jackets: At Chicago on Saturday night.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports
Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy