ELMONT — Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal scored two goals each — the latter tallying both in a second period that was one of the most impressive frames the Islanders had played all year — to spark New York to a 5-1 victory at UBS Arena over a Pittsburgh Penguins team that entered Tuesday night’s meeting having won eight of its last 10.
“I think it was [our most complete game of the year],” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “I think from start to finish, I thought we were dialed in and we were doing things the right way. I just thought we played a real solid hockey game.”
Breaking open a 1-1 tie after the opening 20 minutes, the Islanders scored three times in the second — Josh Bailey’s sixth goal of the season sandwiched by Barzal’s brace on a night in which the former recorded two points (1G, 1A).
“Yeah, that might have been our best game of the year,” Barzal said. “I think guys just making plays, guys are making good passes. It seemed like everything was on the tape tonight.”
Barzal first tipped a Hudson Fasching one-timer just 50 seconds into the second to put the Islanders back in front after relinquishing an early lead.
Bailey made it three when he had the easiest of tap-ins at the left post thanks to a Noah Dobson fake shot that fooled the Penguins’ defense. While they bit thinking Dobson was sending the puck to the net, the Islanders’ defenseman from the point found Bailey with nothing but twine in front of him at the goal mouth at the 11:32 mark of the period.
“I had a little bit of time and just tried to take my ice, get my head up” Dobson said of his assist. “I saw Bails backdoor there and I just tried to sell it the best I could.”
Barzal capped off the impressive display which saw the Islanders outshoot the Penguins 19-5 in the second when he popped a wrister from a tough angle off Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry’s arm and in after Fasching worked through traffic from behind the goal and Bailey swiped it out to the center.
It was the centerpiece of an overall dominating night in what was their second win in a row. The Islanders outshot Pittsburgh 43-20 while holding them to just eight over the final 40 minutes of the night in their first game out of the Christmas break.
“To get the momentum going and continue it from where we thought we were, coming out of the three-day break to kind of pop one settles you at the end of the game a little bit and relieve some of the pressure,” Lee said. “Our guys from the puck drop tonight, we had our legs and made sure to keep them.”
Flying out of the gates, the Islanders nabbed an early opener when Lee snapped a wrister from the right circle just inside the opposite post 1:03 into the game.
Just moments later, the Islanders lost Wahlstrom after he laid a massive hit on Chad Ruhwedel in the corner of the Penguins’ zone. While he was getting up from the hit, Pittsburgh defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph took a run at Wahlstrom that ultimately knocked him out of the game.
Lambert did not provide an update on the winger after the game.
Still, the Islanders pushed despite a shortened bench and appeared to grab a second when Casey Cizikas stuffed home a chance through Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry roughly four minutes later, but it was called off after the play was ruled offside upon review.
An Anthony Beauvillier ultimately took the proverbial wind out of New York sails to allow the Penguins to stabilize. The visitors found an equalizer with 4:47 to go in the first period when Joseph’s wrist shot deflected past Ilya Sorokin.
It was the lone blemish for the Islanders netminder, who was able to celebrate his 100th career NHL game with a win.
Lee grabbed his second of the night off a rebound in front stemming from a Brock Nelson wrister that forced Jarry out of position for another easy tap-in 3:33 into the third period.