Josh Bailey scored two goals in the first period to lead the Islanders to a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Thursday night. With those goals and an assist, he took home the first star of the game after being recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Wednesday morning.
“He was excellent,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “He went down there (to the Sound Tigers) with the right attitude and went down there and did the things we asked him to do. What we wanted to do when we brought him back was make sure his game carried over and for the last two nights he’s done that.”
For his first goal, Bailey beat Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur just 3:09 into the first period, intercepting a pass between from Jamie Langenbrunner in the slot. Just 2:30 later, he tapped the puck into the net to beat Brodeur for a second time, giving the Isles a 2-0 lead.
Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders is congratulated by his teammate Josh Bailey #12 after Nielsen scored a shorthanded goal against the New Jersey Devils during the game at the Prudential Center on December 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
“They were good goals,” Bailey said. “For myself, I was pretty happy about it. I needed those ones to kind of get the ball rolling again. I think we did a good job finding ways to score.”
Blake Comeau also found a way to score, at 3:15 of the third period he fired a rocket of slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle, shelving the puck top left corner to bring the Isles ahead to the final margin, 5-1. He also earned an assist on Bailey’s game-winning goal.
After the hot first, the second period was a bit of a momentum killer for the Islanders. They only took three shots on net, compared to 16 shots by the Devils and spent the majority of zone time in the defensive end. And by the end of the third, the Devils had outshot the Islanders 29 to six in the last 40 minutes of play.
As a result, Dwayne Roloson made some saves that completely robbed the Devils offensive attack and was awarded the second star for stopping 34 of 35 shots on the night. Travis Zajac scored the only goal for the Devils at 1:21 of the second period to bring the score 3-1.
“(Roloson is) an experienced guy, gave us a chance to win and made some huge saves,” Capuano said. “When there was a two goal lead, he made a couple of big saves to keep it like that. Roli played well.”
Bailey added, “I think Roli held us in there. The shots speak for themselves. They outshot us pretty bad, but I think offensively, we found a way to put some pucks in the net and win the game even though we didn’t have our best game, which is definitely a step in the right direction.”
By midway through the second, as Bailey was driving the net on a breakaway, he was tripped by Ilya Kovalchuk and the puck came loose in front of Brodeur. Frans Nielsen was there to pressure and chip in the puck to score a shorthanded goal at 10:43 to make the score 4-1.
Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders puts the puck past a sliding Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils for a short handed goal during the game at the Prudential Center on December 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
“On the PK, (it was) just a play we try and run sometimes,” Bailey said. “(It was) just a hard rim and trying to time it to get there at the same time as their guy and I just poked (the puck) past him.”
Bailey continued, “It’s too bad that it was Kovalchuk. I mean if it was anyone else, I probably would have been alone, but he’s one of the fastest guys in the league. I was looking right away for maybe a penalty shot and didn’t realize that the puck was still laying there. Obviously I was pretty excited to see Fransie put it in.”
The Islanders definitely weren’t going to make the first period easy for the Devils. Forward John Tavares made the score 3-0 when he netted a goal from the left faceoff circle off of a one-timer at 11:00, beating Brodeur blocker side. Travis Hamonic and PA Parenteau took the assists.
“Obviously when you win hockey games, you get the confidence and the belief,” Capuano said. “Even the last two or three weeks, they’ve been working hard, they practice hard, they sacrifice their bodies, but they weren’t getting the results they wanted. We’ve been scoring some goals lately and anytime you can score three or four goals, you give yourself a chance to win, especially with the goaltending we have.”
Note: Matt Moulson did not return to the game after he took a hit from Anton Volchenkov in the first period. He will be reevaluated on Friday and was held out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.