Bailey, Barzal rally Islanders past Sabres
NEW YORK — First Josh Bailey got the New York Islanders to overtime. Then he watched Mathew Barzal do the rest.
Bailey scored the game-tying, replay-aided goal with 1:09 left in regulation Wednesday night and handed the puck off to Barzal on a shift change in overtime that ended with Barzal scoring 1:08 into the extra session to lift the Islanders to a chaotic 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at Barclays Center.
“Right now, I’m just elated that we got two points,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “It was a big comeback with a minute nine and to win it in overtime, it’s two huge points for our hockey club.”
The Islanders appeared headed for a hard-luck loss — Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo, an ex-Islander, put Buffalo ahead 2-1 with 8:27 left in the third — until pulling goalie Jaroslav Halak with about 1:20 left in the third period.
The Islanders immediately mounted a rush that appeared to end with Bailey’s shot from the front of the left faceoff circle banging off the post and back into the Sabres’ zone. But at the next stoppage more than 30 seconds later, a review was initiated and replay officials in Toronto determined the puck crossed the goal line before it hit the post.
“I knew it had a chance,” Bailey said. “I wasn’t quite sure from my angle. I think his glove snapped back a little bit. Obviously, I would have rather seen it hit the mesh the first go-around. Your heart breaks pretty quickly there in those situations.”
Bailey helped the Islanders break the Sabres’ hearts one more time. Buffalo, though, had the last chance in regulation when Jack Eichel’s shot was cradled by Jaroslav Halak in the final five seconds, and the first chance in overtime, when Evander Kane’s semi-breakaway was turned away by Halak at the 37-second mark.
The Islanders maintained possession for the next half-minute, until Bailey, who opened the overtime on the ice with John Tavares and Nick Leddy, handed the puck off to Barzal at center ice. Barzal skated with the puck to the back of the neutral zone and then darted up the ice before the Sabres could pull off their own shift change.
Barzal blew by Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and fired a shot before Ryan O’Reilly could get his stick into the path of the puck, which sailed between the legs of Lehner.
“When he can get a 40-, 50-foot gap on a ‘D,’ it doesn’t really matter,” Weight said. “To Ristolainen’s defense, he was out there for a minute and five seconds chasing around Tavares, Bailey, Leddy. So he was at a disadvantage.
“(Barzal) can fly and I think he recognizes when guys are going to have trouble and he takes advantage of those. He skates right at you and he’s pretty deceptive. It was a good shot. I’m glad he didn’t try to stick handle through everyone and deke them. It’s good to put the puck on the net when you have all that speed.”
The goal was the fifth in the last three games for Barzal, who earned NHL second star of the week honors last week after collecting his first hat trick in Saturday’s win over the Winnipeg Jets.
“That’s certainly the way it worked out tonight,” a grinning Bailey said when asked if he planned to set up Barzal as he did. “He’s fun to watch and obviously he makes a lot of great plays out there. He’s been getting rewarded, so it’s good to see.”
Jason Chimera scored in the second for the Islanders (20-13-4), who have won two straight for the first time this month. Halak made 35 saves.
“They got the opportunities and they made things happen,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said of the Islanders.
Zemgus Girgensons scored in the second for the Sabres (9-20-8), who lost 11 of 14 (3-7-4). Lehner made 31 saves.
“Thought we outplayed them for the most part,” Girgensons said. “But unlucky there at the end.”
NOTES: Since 2013, the Islanders are 2-2-1 and the Sabres are 3-0-2 in the game following the Christmas break. ... The crowd of 15,027 was the second-biggest of the season at Barclays Center. The Islanders, who drew 15,234 to their home opener against the Sabres Oct. 7, entered Wednesday last in the NHL with an average attendance of 11,789 per game. ... The Islanders scratched RW Steve Bernier, D Ryan Pulock and C Alan Quine. ... The Sabres scratched D Victor Antipin, D Josh Gorges and C Scott Wilson. ... Sabres C Ryan O’Reilly returned to the team after missing Saturday’s game to attend the birth of his child.