Josh Bailey’s two short-handed goals got the New York Islanders off to a hot start, and they road the momentum to a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in preseason action, Thursday at Prudential Center.
Kevin Poulin played all 60 minutes, making 20 saves for the Islanders first win of the preseason. Martin Brodeur started for New Jersey, playing the first 40 minutes before Scott Wedgewood took over in the third.
Following the game, Islanders head coach Jack Capuano gave his team’s penalty killers the highest marks after they held the Devils to a 1-for-10 effort on the man advantage. The teams engaged in five fights, combining for 112 penalty minutes, including 76 in the third period.
“No team is going to take liberties on us and I thought our guys played really hard for one another,” Capuano said. “It's part of the game with the fisticuffs, but it's a good feeling in that room in between periods. We made some mistakes, but for the most part we did what we had to do.”
Anders Lee put the Islanders on the board with his first tally of the preseason. During a man advantage, Ryan Strome took the offensive zone and began a slick passing play with Brock Nelson and Lee, who went top shelf from the left circle at 3:31.
The Islanders solidified their special teams edge on the penalty kill three minutes later, when Kyle Okposo and Bailey broke out on a 2-on-1. Okposo’s pass went through a defenseman to his line mate, who beat Brodeur.
“It's nice to contribute on the score sheet and get some confidence,” Bailey said. “I benefited from a heck of a pass by Kyle.”
With the Islanders up 2-1 later in the frame, Bailey led a solo attack on the penalty kill, beating Brodeur with a strong second effort. With time winding down in the period, Eric Boulton sprung out of the penalty box and took a pass from Lee before breaking in and finding the back of the net, giving the Islanders a 4-1 advantage before the intermission.
The Devils climbed back to within a single goal early in the second period on shots through traffic by Marek Zidlicky and Jon Merrill. During a New Jersey power play late in the stanza, Poulin made a sprawling save to his left on Zidlicky, and early in the third, he stymied Travis Zajac on a breakaway to keep the Islanders in the driver’s seat.
"I was pretty comfortable by the third period,” Poulin said. “I was a little bit more relaxed. I was more in control. I was seeing the puck a little bit more."
Peter Regin added an unassisted breakaway goal in the third to extend the Islanders lead to 5-3.
The Islanders will rematch the Devils on Saturday at Barclays Center when the two teams meet for the first ever NHL game in Brooklyn.