Powered by Josh Bailey’s first-career, five-point game, the Islanders completed a home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 5-3 victory Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Bailey led the way with two goals and three assists while linemates Kyle Okposo (two goals) and Frans Nielsen (one assist) took advantage of a shaky Marc-Andre Fleury to carry the Isles past the Pens. The Isles hottest player now has 12 points (3g/9a) during a six-game streak.
“As a line I thought we played pretty well and found a way to get some goals,” a humble Bailey said. “It’s resulted in our team getting a couple of extra wins [5-1 in their last six] and takes some pressure off the top-line.”
Okposo, Bailey and Marty Reasoner scored four goals on the Islanders first 17 shots, racking up nine goals on a 35-shot span on the Penguins backstop. In four previous games vs. Pittsburgh, the Islanders only managed to score five goals on 108 shots against Fleury.
“The wins that we’ve had recently, it’s been because of secondary scoring,” Jack Capuano said. “It’s really good to see some of the guys that struggled earlier on in the year, scoring some goals. I think his teammates complement one another really well.”
Reasoner opened the scoring at 11:07 of the first period, going five-hole on Fleury from high in the slot, bulging twine for the first time this season. With an assist, Mark Streit notched his 200th career assist and 38th of the season.
The Penguins evened the score when Pascal Dupuis buried a shorthanded tally at 8:37 of the second period. The game remained tied at one until Okposo scored his 19th goal of the season on the power play and fourth in four straight games.
Two minutes later the game’s best player, Bailey, broke loose for a shorthanded breakaway, sliding the puck under a diving Fleury for his third point of the game.
In the third period, the Islanders second line cycled the puck deep in the Penguins zone as Okposo started and finished a passing play between Nielsen and Bailey for his 20th goal.
“It feels good to get to 20 goals for the first time,” Okposo said.
The Penguins would not go away quietly as 2:08 later, Jordan Staal split the Isles D before backhanding his 24th goal past Al Montoya. With 1:31 left to play, Evgeni Malkin brought the Penguins to within one before Bailey capped his spectacular night with an empty-netter.
Dylan Reese struck Sidney Crosby in the face with a clearing attempt at 1:43 of the second period and left the ice, but returned after repairs to finish the game. With five hits, Matt Martin now has 354 and is now two hits shy of tying Cal Clutterbuck’s single-season hits record.
The Islanders carry their three-game win streak into Saturday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins. The action gets under way at Nassau Coliseum at 1 p.m.