The New York Islanders will be trying to take a sizable 2-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in their Eastern Conference first-round series when they meet again at Nassau Coliseum in New York on Friday night. Game 1 on Wednesday went the way of the Islanders, who finished with three more points than Pittsburgh during the regular season to snag home-ice advantage.
One comeback too many
The Penguins scored late in regulation to force overtime in the series opener, but New York held on for a 4-3 win. It would behoove the Pens to not require playing catch-up again after allowing the opening goal less than two minutes into Wednesday’s contest.
“It’s their home ice and we knew they were going to come out strong,” forward Jake Guentzel said of the Islanders. “Not the way we wanted to start for sure. We have to start better next game and go from there.”
Evgeni Malkin, playing in his third game since missing more than two weeks due to injury, scored on a power play and set up defenseman Justin Schultz’s game-tying goal with 1:29 left in regulation. That gave Malkin three goals and 13 points in seven playoff matchups with New York. Phil Kessel, who finished the regular season with nine points in his last seven games, matched Malkin with a goal and an assist to give him eight points in five head-to-head meetings versus the Islanders this season.
Off and running
Hosting a Game 1 of a postseason series for the first time in 31 years, the Islanders made the wait more than worthwhile with their OT victory at Pittsburgh’s expense. New York has a chance to take a 2-0 edge in this Eastern Conference first-round showdown when the Penguins pay another visit on Friday. Although the teams split four meetings during the regular season, Wednesday’s matchup was the first in four months and was settled when Josh Bailey scored more than four minutes into overtime after the Islanders failed to protect a trio of one-goal leads.
Bailey emerged as the hero by batting in a rebound of Mathew Barzal’s shot in overtime, but he had to have a short memory and recover after hitting a post in the final seconds of regulation.
“That was tough to shake. I was worried I was going to have to see that one in my nightmares for a little while,” Bailey reflected. “A little bit of redemption — just happy to get the win. Crucial game, there’s still a long way to go. But good win for us.”
The New York Islanders are:
- 21-41 in their last 62 games against Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Penguins are:
- 5-2 in their last seven games playing on one day of rest
- 5-2 in their last seven Friday games
- 11-4 in their last 15 conference quarterfinal games