Tuesday’s five-goal effort against the Pittsburgh Penguins marked the third time this season that the Islanders put up five goals inside 40 minutes. There were a few notable names missing from the score sheet as the Islanders potent top line was held pointless.
However, three of the team’s hottest players, Frans Nielsen
, Kyle Okposo
and Josh Bailey
, picked up the slack with eight points against the Penguins.
“The three of us are going really well,” Bailey said. “It’s always nice to get rewarded with some points and help this team win ultimately. It was a good road trip for us.”
|Bailey & Okposo celebrate one of their lines' many goals Tuesday night in Pittsburgh at the CONSOL Energy Center. |
All drafted by the Islanders and developing through the system, this trio have taken off as a three-man unit over the past two games.
“The way he [Nielsen] distributes the puck, he makes his wingers better players,” Bailey said. “I’ve been a beneficiary of that, like a number of other guys.”
Bailey, a natural center, was the key distributor on Tuesday night, racking up a career-high three assists, setting up Nielsen twice and feeding David Ullstrom
a backdoor pass.
Okposo, a power forward and finisher, battles in the corners and brings size to the line as well as a big target for the two playmakers.
“He’s big when he’s protecting the puck and creating space for us,” Nielsen said. Gelling Together on the Road
Nielsen, Bailey and Okposo have all hit their stride on the team’s recent five-game trip. Nielsen has eight points (4g/4a) in his last five games, Bailey is on a five-game point-streak (1g/6a) and Okposo has goals in three straight. The Islanders went 4-1, winning in very hostile buildings like the Bell Centre and CONSOL Energy Center.
“I don’t mind those longer road trips where you are together,” Nielsen said. “It’s different than just going one game and coming back home. For some reason when you’re away for a while you usually come back with at least two wins, if you play four games. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just different.”
Nielsen may not have the reason for that success, but he is on to something. On the Islanders three road trips this season in which they played four or more games, they walked away with a combined 8-3-2 record. They took seven of eight points in a late November-early December swing and eight of 10 on their longest trip of the season in the last two weeks.
“When you are on the road together, you spend a bit more time as a team,” Bailey said. “It’s always good for team bonding. We have a great group of guys. We are all really close and getting along well. It’s definitely an enjoyable room to be a part of.”