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Bailey, Tavares lead Islanders past Blue Jackets

by Brian Compton

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders' top line showed no love for the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nassau Coliseum on Valentine's Day.

John Tavares had two goals and two assists, Josh Bailey had two goals and an assist and Anders Lee had four assists to lead the Islanders to a 6-3 win against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"The way the three of us play seems to mesh," Bailey said. "It's been fun. You just want to keep playing hard and I think we'll keep getting results."

Ryan Strome and Frans Nielsen also scored for the Islanders (37-18-1), who have won four in a row. They will host the New York Rangers on Monday.

Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno scored for Columbus (24-27-3), which opened a five-game road trip after an overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Friday. The Blue Jackets will visit Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"We certainly had our chance heading into the third and we didn't take advantage of it," Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell said. "The back-to-back is no excuse. That's just part of the game.

"They earned their chances and did the most with them. We gave them so many opportunities. When they got pucks deep they found ways to score. They really frustrated us."

The Islanders needed 67 seconds to get on the scoreboard when Bailey scored his 10th goal of the season. Tavares intercepted Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson's attempt to send the puck around the end boards and quickly sent it towards the front of the net where it went off Lee's skate before Bailey collected it and put a wrist shot past Blue Jackets goalie Anton Forsberg.

Bailey scored his second of the game at 8:21 of the first, courtesy of a terrific setup by Tavares. The Islanders captain controlled the puck behind the net and outmuscled Johnson before passing to Bailey at the bottom of the right circle, where he one-timed it past Forsberg from a sharp angle to make it 2-0.

"Johnny's a world-class player," said Bailey, who has a three-game point streak. "He makes the guys around him better. When you get that opportunity [to play with him], you want to step in and do the job. I think Anders has done a great job. I think he's put a lot of big goals in there for us. Whatever line he's been on, he's always made that line better and contributed. I feel confident as well and I think the three of us and as a team, we've got to keep going in this direction. I think we've been working hard and keeping things simple and that's why we're getting results."

The Blue Jackets cut the deficit in half with 4:15 remaining in the first when Dubinsky scored his fifth goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Dubinsky took a pass from Matt Calvert and skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 with Atkinson. Dubinsky elected to shoot and he beat Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak with a wrist shot from the circle to make it 2-1.

Atkinson tied it with an unassisted goal at 19:28 of the first when defenseman Brian Strait whiffed on a clearing attempt near the Islanders' blue line. Atkinson collected the puck, skated in alone and sent a wrist shot past Halak to make it 2-2. It was Atkinson's 13th goal of the season and fourth in the past five games.

New York regained the lead when Strome scored his 10th of the season at 7:02 of the second period. Kevin Connauton turned the puck over in the slot and Lubomir Visnovsky quickly let go a slap shot that Forsberg denied with his pad. But Strome was there to get the rebound and he roofed a wrist shot over Forsberg to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead.

But the Blue Jackets came up with another goal in the final minute of a period, this time by Foligno. Moments after a penalty against Casey Cizikas expired, Foligno redirected a cross-ice feed from Scott Hartnell past Halak to make it 3-3. It was Foligno's 22nd goal of the season.

"We did some good things but they took better advantage of their opportunities. There's no question about that," Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen said. "We couldn't find a way to be better when we had to, heading into the third tied. We have to play better than that late in games."

Nielsen put the Islanders back in front 1:54 into the third period with his 10th goal of the season. Nielsen, who hadn't scored since Jan. 13, received Thomas Hickey's feed from the left circle and swatted it past Forsberg to give New York a 4-3 lead.

The Islanders restored the two-goal edge on Tavares' 25th goal of the season at 7:08 of the third. Tavares, who had been buzzing most of the game, fought off a defender in the slot, turned and ripped a wrist shot past Forsberg to make it 5-3.

"I think the whole team gave us trouble," Johnson said. "I think they outplayed us in pretty much every facet of the game. We had a couple of good chances on the power play, couldn't score. We had a chance, give them a couple of goals and it got away from us in the third."

Tavares put the game away with his second goal of the game at 11:15 when he took a pass from Bailey and beat Forsberg with a wrist shot to give the Islanders a 6-3 lead.

"The poise and composure we play with this year is just so far ahead from last year," Tavares said. "It's unbelievable really. You can just sense that confidence and understand that we're dictating the game. If we just keep the momentum and keep doing those things we'll wear them down and eventually it paid off."

Tavares, Bailey and Lee were each plus-4.

"They've been great," defenseman Travis Hamonic said of the top line. "Anders is a bull in front of the net and in the corners. I think those things are so underrated that maybe the average person doesn't see. You can't knock him off the puck. (Bailey) has been playing great. He's got such good vision, playmaking. I don't know if you have enough tape for me to talk about Johnny."

Halak finished with 34 saves.


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