Josh Bailey’s game-winning goal with 1:40 to play capped off a three-goal third period as the New York Islanders stormed back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 Friday at CONSOL Energy Center.
With the score tied 3-3, Bailey led a 2-on-1 rush out of the Islanders zone. A broken pass found Kyle Okposo, who looked back to Bailey for a one-timer. Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff made his finest save of the evening, but the long rebound found Frans Nielsen at the top of the left circle. Nielsen zinged a pass to Bailey in front, whose shot was blocked by a defenseman. With one hand on his stick, Bailey lunged at the puck to chip it over Zatkoff for the go-ahead goal.
“We couldn’t find a way to get one in and the goalie made a good save,” Bailey said. “Fransy made a good pass and I was able to find a way to put it in.”
Evgeni Nabokov finished with 39 saves, including 11 during the Penguins’ five unsuccessful power plays as the Islanders were out-shot 42-25. The Islanders trailed for most of the second and third periods by a single goal, but their netminder made several big saves to keep the game within reach.
“Some nights the opponent is going to have a step on you and put more pucks to the net, or you’ll take more penalties,” Nabokov said. “But as the game went along, we felt like we could score a goal, be right back in the game and then turn the table on them. We didn’t quit. We put the puck at the net, and good things happened.”
Matt Moulson started the scoring midway through the opening period with his sixth tally of the season. John Tavares deflected a centering feed from Nielsen, and Moulson was there to clean up the rebound in front of Zatkoff.
The lead was short-lived, as the Penguins tied the game three minutes later. As an Islanders penalty expired, Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter pulled up in transition and fired a shot from the top of the left circle. Nabokov made the initial save, but Jussi Jokinen swung at the rebound in the slot to knock it in.
The Islanders goalie made 19 saves in the middle frame, but was beat during a 2-on-1 by Sidney Crosby six minutes into the period as the Penguins grabbed the lead.
Nabokov made a huge save on Crosby early in the third to keep the Islanders within a goal after Chris Kunitz sprung the Pittsburgh captain on a breakaway. Later in the period, he made a toe save on an Evgeni Malkin shot from the right side.
Nielsen knotted up the game with 7:14 remaining in the third on a redirected shot. Thomas Hickey’s shot-pass from the left point hit Nielsen in front, and the puck fluttered over Zatkoff to tie the game at 2-2.
Nielsen has goals in three consecutive games, including back-to-back three-point efforts (two goals, four assists). The eighth-year center leads the Islanders with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) through 10 games.
After Nielsen's goal, the game remained tied for just 16 seconds, until the Penguins’ Joe Vitale led an attack the other way. Curling around the goal line to Nabokov’s right, Vitale fed the front of the net for Deryk Engelland, whose first goal of the season re-established the Pittsburgh lead.
The Islanders pushed right back and evened the score within the minute. Following a failed clearing attempt in the Penguins zone, Radek Martinek made a no-look pass to the slot for Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who deked Zatkoff to open him up five-hole. Bouchard’s first goal as an Islander tied the game at 3-3 at the 13:55 mark. Martinek, making his season debut after signing a one-year deal on Wednesday, also assisted on Nielsen’s marker to finish with two assists.
“He’s an experienced guy,” head coach Jack Capuano said of Martinek. “You know exactly what you’re going to get when he steps on the ice. He’s not flashy, but he does all the little things. He does a lot of things with his feet - he’s got great mobility and agility. He played some good minutes for us tonight.”
Bouchard’s goal set up a dramatic final few minutes, culminating with Bailey’s game-winner. Zatkoff was pulled in favor of an extra attacker down the stretch, but the Penguins were unable to tie the contest.
The Islanders won’t celebrate Friday’s victory for long, as they will be right back at it Saturday, Oct. 26, when the Philadelphia Flyers make their first appearance of the season at Nassau Coliseum. Saturday’s contest will start at 7:00 p.m.
Radek Martinek made his season debut, finishing with two assists and a plus-2 rating in 14:58 … Matt Moulson leads the NHL with five power play goals … Moulson has goals in three straight (4g), and points in his last five (five goals, three assists) … Moulson also moved into the top-20 in franchise history with his 118th goal as an Islander, tying Mark Parrish and Steve Thomas for 19th place … John Tavares now has points in nine consecutive games (four goals, eight assists) … Tavares is tied for the league lead with six power play assists, while Frans Nielsen is tied for fourth with five … Evgeni Nabokov’s 39 saves were a season-high, and were his most in a game since Jan. 24 at Toronto (39) … Kyle Okposo has points in four straight games (two goals, five assists) … Thomas Hickey’s assist was his first point of the season … Travis Hamonic led all players with 30:21 of ice time and tied for a game-high four hits … Josh Bailey led the Islanders with four shots on goal … Andrew MacDonald had a team-high five blocks.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin