Josh Bailey
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The New York Islanders take an early series lead after grinding out a victory against a Pittsburgh Penguins squad that wouldn’t quit.

Danny Small

So far, so good. The New York Islanders might not have the playoff experience of their counterparts, but you couldn’t tell on Wednesday night.

Although it took until overtime, the Islanders were able to overcome the Pittsburgh Penguins. Josh Bailey followed up a rebound after Mathew Barzal dangled his way to a shot off the post. Fortunately for the Nassau Coliseum crowd, Bailey buried the finish and stole a crucial Game 1 victory for the Isles.

From the opening puck drop, the Isles were the aggressors. A Tom Kuhnhackl goal within the first minute had Nassau Coliseum jumping. But a challenge would reveal an offside and the goal was called back.

Fortunately for the raucous Long Island crowd, the Isles didn’t lose much momentum. Jordan Eberle would score soon after on gritty play from the Isles to set up Eberle in the front of the net. He buried the opportunity and the Isles jumped out to a lead for real this time.

In the first five minutes, the Isles looked like the aggressor, but the veteran-laden Pittsburgh Penguins would steady themselves. Phil Kessel went five-hole on Isles goaltender Robin Lehner to knot it at 1-1.

It seemed cruel considering how well the Isles played for the first four minutes of the game. But the Islanders struggled to take command whenever they took a lead in this game.

New York Islanders

Later in the first period, the Isles went on their first power play and did not waste any time. Crisp passing set up Brock Nelson in the front of the net and he buried the puck. Once again, things were working in the Isles favor.

An Evgeni Malkin goal would level the two sides in a second period dominated by Pittsburgh. Once again, the Isles took the lead but failed to create any distance. But the pesky Isles didn’t break. A third-period goal from defenseman Nick Leddy appeared to be the deciding blow.

But once again, the Isles couldn’t pull away. Obviously, it’s a great sign that the Islanders are playing from in front and dictating the pace of play, but they never could put the Penguins away.

Luckily, Bailey and Barzal were able to save the day in a thrilling overtime victory. That being said, the Isles could be playing with fire if they continue to let the Penguins hang around.

This win is going to make everyone feel good about themselves, but this game could have just as easily swung Pittsburgh’s way. The biggest takeaway from Game 1 is that this series looks poised to go six or seven games.

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