Josh Bailey's OT winner powered the New York Islanders to a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum, giving the Isles a 1-0 series lead in their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pens.
Bailey's goal capped what was a thrilling, back and forth opening act between the two-and-three seeds in the Metropolitan Division.
There were twists and turns, leads gained and leads lost, as well as two disallowed Isles goals on the way to Bailey's winner, which came at 4:39 of overtime. That's just playoff hockey, according to Bailey, but also the sign of a resilient team, according to Head Coach Barry Trotz.
"We just stayed to it. I liked our composure on the bench," Trotz said. "They didn't flinch at all, which is good. In close games, we've learned to be comfortable and they are going to be close games in the playoffs."
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Bailey wins it in OT for Islanders
They didn't blink when Justin Schultz tied the score 3-3 with 1:29 left in the third period, nor slump their shoulders after Bailey's shot off the post with five seconds remaining in regulation. Tom Kuhnhackl's second disallowed goal of the night didn't dampen their spirits either.
"That's just hockey. We've been dealing with stuff all night long," Bailey said. "You're going to face adversity. You got to find a way to respond. We obviously found a way to win which is most important."
They found a way in overtime. Mathew Barzal had all sorts of time and space in front of Matt Murray (29 saves) in overtime, dangling left and right before putting a shot off the post. Bailey pounced on the rebound and made no mistake, sealing the Isles 1-0 series lead.
"Big moments like that, he finds ways to keep a level head and make a play. He ends up winning the game," Bailey said of Barzal.
Trotz added that Barzal "set the tone" and paid the playoff rookie the ultimate compliment.
"You wouldn't know this was his first playoff game," the coach said.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Leddy fires knuckling puck by Murray
The Islanders didn't looked fazed by the Penguins experience at all. Buoyed by a raucous Coliseum, the Islanders went right at the Penguins from the drop of the puck. Kuhnhackl snapped a shot past Murray 30 seconds into the game, but the goal was overturned on an offside call.
Unfazed, Jordan Eberle gave the Isles the lead at 1:40, netting his first-career playoff goal. Phil Kessel made it 1-1 at 5:42, but Brock Nelson restored the Isles lead with a power-play goal at 15:46. Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal tied the score again in the second period.
Nick Leddy seemingly had the game-winner, as he beat Murray through a screen at 12:35, but Schultz's late goal put the party on pause until OT. And while the Isles were happy with the win, they know it's a first step, rather than a finish line.
"We obviously wanted it," Bailey said. "It's one game. There's still a ways to go, but we'd obviously rather win it than lose it obviously and try and get ready for game two.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Eberle slips home first playoff goal
EBERLE SCORES FIRST PLAYOFF GOAL:
In one period, Jordan Eberle matched his total career playoff production.
After recording two assists in 13 games with the Edmonton Oilers in the 2017 playoffs, Eberle recorded a goal and an assist in the first period on Wednesday, including his first-career playoff goal. The 28-year-old winger slid a rebound five-hole on Matt Murray at 1:40 of the first period to make it 1-0, and later made a nifty backhand pass to Brock Nelson for a power-play goal at 15:46.
Eberle's two points marked a continuation of his sizzling end to the season. Eberle had four goals and an assist in the final five games of the campaign.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Nelson chips one past Murray for PPG
ISLES SCORE ON THE POWER PLAY:
After finishing 29th on the power play in the regular season, the Isles were looking for a reset heading into the playoffs.
With a goal on their first opportunity with the man advantage, it appeared the reboot kicked in early. Nelson did the deed, parking himself in front and burying a slick feed from Eberle at 15:46. The Isles power play went 1-for-2 on the night.
Rebooting the power play was one part of the Isles special teams game plan. The second was to keep Pittsburgh's potent power play on the bench. The penalty kill went 2-for-3, as Malkin's second-period tally - a wrist shot that deflected off Adam Pelech's stick - made it 2-2.
"We were even in the special teams and that's what you want," Trotz said.
Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Lehner turns away Malkin twice in close
LEHNER LOOKS GOOD IN WIN:
Robin Lehner made 41 saves on 44 shots on Wednesday night, earning his first-career playoff win. The Islanders goalie was tested early and often by the Penguins big guns, robbing Patric Hornqvist with the left pad in the first period, while denying Malkin twice in alone at the end of the second.
"Robin made some huge saves at the right time," Trotz said.
Game two goes on Friday night at the Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.