Josh Bailey is sure to look back fondly on Friday night, when he scored the game-winning goal against the Carolina Hurricanes and played in his 1,000th game with the New York Islanders.
The Islanders hope the night also will be looked upon as the game when Brock Nelson got untracked.
The Islanders will get another chance to face a contender on Saturday night when they oppose the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in Elmont, N.Y.
Both teams will complete back-to-back sets after playing on the road Friday night. Nelson scored twice for the Islanders, who never trailed while beating the Hurricanes 6-2 in Raleigh, N.C. The Avalanche absorbed a rare shutout defeat as they fell to the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in Newark, N.J.
Bailey put the Islanders ahead for good at 3-2 with 3:34 left in the second period before Nelson scored consecutive goals within the first 12 minutes of the third. The goals were the first of the season for Nelson, who scored a team-high 81 the previous three seasons combined.
“He did it at a key moment in the game,” Islanders coach Lane Lambert said of Nelson’s goals. “Not only did he break out of it, but you know he deserves full credit for doing that and making a difference in the game.”
The win was the second straight for the Islanders, who beat the New York Rangers 3-0 on Wednesday night. The Hurricanes and Rangers finished first and second, respectively, in the Metropolitan Division last season. The Islanders came in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 16 points out of the final playoff spot.
The Islanders earned consecutive wins over playoff-bound teams just twice last season. They beat the Rangers and Dallas Stars in mid-March before taking a home-and-home set from the Washington Capitals in late April.
“It really just felt like a total, complete team win (on Friday),” said Bailey, who is the 12th player to score the game-winning goal in his 1,000th NHL game. “It’s a special one, and it will be close to my heart for a long time.”
Playing two games in as many nights is the latest road challenge for the Avalanche, who are in the midst of a 19-day period when the only game in which they’ll wear home uniforms is Nov. 5, when Colorado plays the first game of a back-to-back set against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Tampere, Finland.
The Avalanche might have been showing the effects of the already-lengthy road trip Friday night, when they were shut out for just the second time since the start of last season. The Hurricanes handed Colorado a 2-0 loss on March 10, 2022.
The Avalanche mustered 24 shots — their second-lowest total of the season — and went 0-for-6 on the power play on Friday. New Jersey’s Jack Hughes scored the game’s lone goal on a power play 2:59 into the third period.
“We didn’t do enough to win the hockey game,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “Tonight, we just didn’t have the jam.”
–Field Level Media