After falling behind in the second period, the New York Islanders didn’t get discouraged. They maintained their focus, tied it minutes later and then pulled away in the third period.
Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey scored less than four minutes apart in the final period and the Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 Friday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“You can’t get too emotional, get too down and get frustrated,” New York captain Anders Lee said. “We were playing a good game at the time (Pittsburgh scored), but there was plenty of time left.”
Anthony Beauvillier had the tying goal midway through the second and Robin Lehner stopped 32 shots to help New York open a post-season series with two wins for the first time since sweeping Edmonton in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final for the Islanders’ fourth straight championship.
Mathew Barzal had two assists in a chippy, physical game that featured a lot of hard hits and some skirmishes, especially in the first two periods — and also after the final buzzer.
“We stayed with it all night,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “Both teams were knocking heads for a while there. ... We got opportunities and we capitalized on them, and we got a big save when we needed it.”
Erik Gudbranson scored and Matt Murray finished with 31 saves for the Penguins, who have lost the first two games of a post-season series for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
Game 3 is Sunday at Pittsburgh.
“We’ve got to go back to our building and worry about one game,” Murray said. “That’s it.”
The Islanders took the lead after a turnover by the Penguins near their own blue line. Barzal sent the puck up to Eberle on the right side and he skated across the front and sent a backhand in at 7:54 of the third to put New York up 2-1.
Bailey, who had the overtime winner in Game 1 on Wednesday night, then gave the Islanders a two-goal lead with a power-play score with 8:22 remaining on New York’s sixth man-advantage of the night. Devon Toews fired a shot that hit Lee, and the puck came to Bailey, who put it in from the right side.
The Islanders struggled on the power play all season, going 3 for 50 over the final 22 games to finish 29th in the NHL at 14.5 per cent. They had one goal on their first seven chances of this series before Bailey’s score.
“We kind of talked earlier in the week, just our power play not killing momentum,” Lee said. “We might not score every time, but to have a good showing, get some shots, create some buzz around us and start feeling the puck. We had a good showing with that. Guys just stuck with it.”
The Penguins pulled Murray for an extra skater with 2:44 remaining, but couldn’t take advantage. Lehner made a nice glove save on Phil Kessel from the right circle, drawing chants of “Leh-ner! Leh-ner!” from the raucous home crowd.
“He was stellar, he made some huge saves,” Eberle said. “A couple that seemed they had an ‘A’ chance at. He’s been huge all year.”
The Islanders had a 5-on-3 advantage for about a minute in the second period, but couldn’t beat Murray. The Penguins goalie then had a diving stop on Matt Martin in front about 7:44 in, and a stick save on a slap shot by Ryan Pulock 10 seconds later.
Brian Dumoulin hit a goalpost for Pittsburgh at about the 9-minute mark.
Gudbranson then gave the Penguins their first lead of the series when he took a pass from Evgeni Malkin and fired a one-timer that beat Lehner’s blocker side and went in off the post with 9:24 remaining in the second. It was Gudbranson’s first career playoff point.
It lasted less than three minutes.
Beauvillier tied it with 6:35 left in the period with his first career playoff goal as he knocked in the loose puck in front after Murray was out of position following a save on Barzal’s initial try on a 3-on-2 break
While some of the Islanders began celebrating the goal, fights broke out to Murray’s left. Barzal was given a double-minor for roughing, while Pittsburgh’s Marcus Pettersson received a 2-minute penalty.
The Islanders outshot the Penguins 11-7 in the scoreless first period.
Murray has lost consecutive playoff games for the fourth time. He also did it in Games 3 and 4 of 2017 Stanley Cup Final against Nashville, and Games 2-3 and 5-6 against Washington in second round last year. ... Penguins F Jared McCann sat out due to an upper-body injury. He was replaced in the lineup by F Teddy Blueger, making his playoff debut. D Jack Johnson was back in the lineup after sitting out Game 1. He had played in all 82 games during the regular season. D Olli Maatta sat out to make room. ... New York was 38-2-2 in regular season when scoring at least 3 goals, and is now 2-0 in playoffs.
The series shifts Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday night.