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First Round

Islanders inspired by raucous home crowd in Game 1 win against Penguins

Bailey OT goal makes for successful playoff return to Nassau Coliseum

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- In a building loaded with thrilling overtime moments in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a place everyone figured the New York Islanders played their last game in four years ago, the longest-tenured player on their roster added another OT moment Wednesday.

Josh Bailey scored 4:39 into overtime to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Nassau Coliseum.

Bailey, the Islanders' first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2008 NHL Draft who has worn their logo for 797 regular-season games and his 23rd playoff game on this night, started the play and finished it. He sent a long pass from his own zone up ice to center Mathew Barzal, who stickhandled his way into the slot and backhanded a shot off the goal post. Bailey raced down the left wing and collected Barzal's rebound before scoring.


[RELATED: Islanders top Penguins in overtime | Complete series coverage]


Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS2, MSG, MSG+, ATTSN-PT).

It was the 16th overtime playoff goal the Islanders have scored in the Coliseum, which opened in 1972 and was home for four consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1980-83. The Islanders, who moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015, returned this season for 21 regular-season games and the first round of the playoffs.

What a way to bring playoff hockey back to the Coliseum for the first time since Game 6 against the Washington Capitals in the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round.

"It was great. Obviously, I've been through it before here," Bailey said. "I think you find a way to control yourself a little bit better, but you still can't help but get those jitters before you go out there. That's what it's all about."

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm1: Bailey wins it in OT for Islanders

Many of the 13,917 in attendance arrived at the Coliseum hours before opening face-off, tailgating in the parking lot and celebrating the fact that the Islanders were hosting a Game 1 in the playoffs for the first time since 1988. They were twice as loud when the players returned for the start of the game, and, much like they did when New York first returned for a regular-season game on Dec. 1, sang along with the Star-Spangled Banner.

They chanted Robin Lehner's name when he was announced in the starting lineup. The Islanders goalie has been embraced since the start of training camp when he opened up about his mental health struggles that led to suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addictions and eventually rehab.

"It was amazing, as always," said Lehner, who made 41 saves. "It's special. I don't understand how they can scream for that long, but good for them."

The roar 33 seconds in was comparable to the sound this building has endured in the past, even if there are roughly 3,000 fewer seats following a renovation. Forward Tom Kuhnhackl, who won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins (2016, 2017), skated into the Pittsburgh zone with the puck and beat goalie Matt Murray with a wrist shot from the left face-off circle to give what the Islanders thought was an early 1-0 lead. But the Penguins won a coach's challenge for offside after video review showed left wing Matt Martin had not left the zone before Kuhnhackl entered with the puck.

But much like they have all season long, the Islanders displayed resiliency and scored 1:07 later when Jordan Eberle put home a rebound.

New York showed more resiliency late when the playoff-experienced Penguins tied the game with 1:29 remaining and Murray pulled for an extra attacker, when defenseman Justin Schultz's shot from the point found its way through traffic and past Lehner to make it 3-3.

"That's playoff hockey, for sure," Bailey said. "That's kind of what we expected, both teams went at it. Back-and-forth game. They found a way to tie it late, and we had to battle a little adversity and shake that off. Ultimately, we found a way to get the win."

Video: Analyzing Islanders winning Game 1 against Penguins

They nearly did so without overtime when Bailey redirected Cal Clutterbuck's cross-ice feed off the goal post with two seconds left in the third period, a sound that would have haunted him at least until Game 2. 

"That was tough to shake," Bailey said. "I was worried I was going to have to see that one my nightmares for a while. Little bit of redemption. I'm just happy to get the win. It's a crucial game, but there's still a long way to go."

That was the message throughout the Islanders locker room afterwards: they know this win was big, but they also know it's a race to four.

But with a chance to take a 2-0 lead in this series on Friday, they know one thing for sure. This place will be even louder than it was Wednesday.

"The crowd was crazy," said Barzal, who played his first NHL playoff game. "We love playing here. It was nuts. Being a young guy, first taste of the playoffs, it was definitely exciting. I'm looking forward to Friday."

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