UNIONDALE, N.Y. — As if the Islanders’ improbable 103 point season and second place finish weren’t enough, they’re headed to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead over the Penguins.
Amidst a raucous Nassau Coliseum atmosphere, the Islanders rallied from a 1-0 deficit to down the Pens 3-1 in Game 2 on Friday night. Jordan Eberle’s late-season success rolled into the playoffs and the forward found the back of the net at 7:54 of the third period to put the Islanders in front 2-1.
Josh Bailey sealed the win with a power-play goal at 11:38 to give the Islanders a two-goal lead.
“I thought we just stayed with it all night,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Pitt came out and they came out hard. Both teams were knocking heads for a while. … I thought we moved our feet really well. We were able to draw a few penalties here and there and then we got opportunities, and we capitalized on them.”
The victory sends the Islanders to the Steel City with a 2-0 series lead, which they haven’t had in a playoff series since 1983. The Penguins haven’t trailed 2-0 in a series since the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, when they were swept by the Boston Bruins,
Still, the Islanders aren’t letting their perspective of the situation slip away.
“I really don’t think any playoff series is over until the final buzzer goes in the fourth win for the winning team. There are too many momentum swings in the playoffs,” Cal Clutterbuck said.
The Islanders have managed to hold off the Penguins through the first two games of the series, and on Friday New York ratcheted up the physicality on Pittsburgh.
Scrums broke out on several occasions, including after the final buzzer sounded and the Islanders’ victory was secured.
“You know it’s playoff hockey,” Scott Mayfield said. “Every inch matters and they’ve been pretty physical games, both of them. It’s just part of it and we’re on to Game 3 now.”
For the second game in a row the Islanders found themselves getting massive contributions from their top six forwards. Eberle’s go-ahead goal was his second of the playoffs and now has four points through two postseason contest.
Bailey’s goal on the power play was his second straight playoff game with a goal and Anthony Beauvillier, who scored in the second period to tie things at one, recorded his first career playoff goal.
“I think we’re all playing hard,” Josh Bailey said about the Islanders all-around success. “You can’t really pin it on anyone. I think it’s been as a group we’ve came out and played hard the way we’ve needed to. That’s the way we have to play to win.”
Despite the back and forth, it was the Penguins who scored first to take their first lead of the series. Erik Gudbranson fired a shot from the point that beat Robin Lehner, who finished the night with 32 saves.
It was the first time the Penguins had led in the series, but it was short-lived. A mere 2:49 later Anthony Beauvillier converted on a rebound to even the score at one in the second period.
Eberle’s backhanded goal at 7:54 gave the Islanders their first lead and Bailey’s goal at 11:35 on the power play ended an 0-for-5 drought on the man advantage.