A return home proved to be a return to form for the New York Islanders, who scored a decisive 6-1 win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Josh Bailey (2G, 1A) scored twice in his return to the lineup, while Anthony Beauvillier (1G, 3A) led the way with four points. JG Pageau, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Islanders, while Semyon Varlamov stopped 25-of-26 shots in the win.
With the regulation win, the Islanders first since April 6, the Isles (62 points) tied the Washington Capitals (62 points) for top spot in the East Division and dealt the Rangers (52 points) playoff hopes a blow. The Rangers currently sit six points behind Boston (58 points), who have two games in hand, for the final playoff spot with 10 games to play.
"It felt big tonight forsure," Bailey said. "The Rangers had been playing really well and kept finding a way to climb up the standings so we wanted to do our best to push them back down. All in all, good overall win tonight, but we'll turn the page and get ready for another big one on Thursday."
Here are five takeaways from a regulation win over archrivals.
After scoring two goals on their three-game road trip, the Islanders offense was ignited by a return to Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders scored six goals on Tuesday, their first time scoring more than three since putting eight up on the Washington Capitals on April 1.
Bailey opened the scoring at 17:42, crashing the net and sweeping in a quick cross-ice feed from JG Pageau for his seventh goal of the season. Bailey's goal capped a fast-paced period between the teams and gave the islanders some momentum heading into the second period, where they capitalized again.
Nelson made it 2-0 at 1:38 of the middle frame, going to the net and deflecting a Nick Leddy pass by Igor Shesterkin for his team-leading 16th goal of the season. Beauvillier buried a power-play goal at 5:45 of the second to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead, but after a quick response from Kevin Rooney, the game did not feel safe until a three-goal outburst midway through the third period.
Pageau made it 4-1 at 7:44 of the third, one-timing a Beauvillier pass from the high slot, beating Shesterkin through traffic for his 13th of the season. Pageau's goal gave each member of a new-look third line, Beauvillier-Pageau-Bailey, a tally on the evening, with the trio combining for nine points (4G, 5A).
That likely put it out of reach, but Bailey's second at 10:16 and Eberle's 15th of the year effectively iced it by the 11:22 mark.
"I played against this Islanders team for a long time and feel like when they have the lead they get stronger," Travis Zajac said. "That was our game today, it was back to not taking your foot off the gas."
BAILEY RETURNS, FORMS NEW-LOOK THIRD LINE:
The Islanders got a big boost before the game, as Josh Bailey returned to the lineup after missing two games with an undisclosed injury.
"To have Josh back in the lineup is big, not only on the ice but in the locker room," Pageau said. "Just the influence he has on everyone and the leadership that he brings, it's big. To play with him, I feel very lucky. Beauvillier was everywhere on the ice tonight. He was moving his feet and winning all of his battles, so it was a fun game for sure."
He made an impact, netting three points playing alongside Pageau and Beauvillier on a new-look third line that accounted for nine points (4G, 5A).
"All three of those guys were good," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "Everyone knows [Bailey] is a very cerebral smart player. They just fit, but they were working. When [Bailey] has that good balance between the cerebral part of the game and the blue collar type of game that you can mix in, he gets a lot done. With [Pager and Beauvillier], they've got some speed, they've got some tenacity and some intelligence. They were able to capitalize tonight."
Bailey's two-goal game was his first of the season and marked his second three-point game this month. Oliver Wahlstrom came out of the lineup to accommodate Bailey's return. Cal Clutterbuck missed his third-straight game.
BEAUVILLIER, VARLAMOV CONTINUE TO HAVE SUCCESS VS RANGERS:
Anthony Beauviller loves playing against the New York Rangers.
The 23-year-old has had more success against the Blueshirts than any other team in his NHL career, entering the game with 16 points (9G, 7A) in 18 games.
After a four-point contest (1G, 3A) on Tuesday night, Beauvillier is up to over a point-per-game in his career vs the Rangers, with 20 points (10G, 10A) in 19 career games.
The secret? Beauvillier isn't sure, but said Tuesday was one of those games where everything seems to go in.
"Everything I touched seemed to go in," Beauvillier said. "Those kind of nights, you just try to appreciate it and go from there. I thought our line and the whole group was really going well tonight. It was one of those nights where you just try and take advantage of it and appreciate it."
The same goes for Varlamov, who returned to the crease after backing up in the previous two games and continued his stellar play against the Rangers this season.
The Islanders goalie stopped 25-of-26 shots in the win, improving to 3-1-0 vs the Blueshirts this season with a 1.01 GAA, a .965 SV% and two shutouts. The 6-1 scoreline betrayed Varlamov's contribution, keeping the game scoreless in a frantic first 15 minutes, and coming up with a pair of key saves to keep it 3-1 in the second period, notably stuffing a Brett Howden chance in a goalmouth scramble.
"You need a big save at a key time," Trotz said. "I don't think [Varlamov] was overly taxed, but when we needed a big save and a timely save he did. It was 3-1, and he made a good save. [Mika] Zibanejad came down the wing and cut to the middle and [Varlamov] made a big save. You need that. If you don't get that, then it's 3-2 they got a little momentum and they're feeling good. That was key for me."
With the offensive flurry, the Islanders power play also busted out of a slump on Tuesday night, going 1-for-3 and snapping an 0-for-14 skid in the process.
On Sunday, Beauvillier said the power play needed a bounce, so it was fitting that he was the beneficiary on Tuesday. Noah Dobson's point shot was blocked in the high slot, but kicked over to Beauvillier who slapped it past Shesterkin before the Rangers goalie could track it.
In the process, Beauvillier kicked a seven-game goalless drought for his ninth of the season.
DOBSON IN, COBURN OUT:
Noah Dobson returned to the lineup on Tuesday after sitting on Sunday as a healthy scratch. Dobson drew in for Braydon Coburn.
Dobson recorded an assist on Beauvillier's power-play goal, snapping a nine-game point drought in the process. Dobson skated 14:35 in the win.
The Islanders return to action on Thursday night when they host the Washington Capitals in the first of three-straight games for first place in the East Division. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.