By WILL GRAVES
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PITTSBURGH – Josh Bailey’s goal with 1:40 left capped the Islanders’ furious third-period rally, and New York edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.
Bailey took a feed from Frans Nielsen in front of the net and beat goalie Jeff Zatkoff for his fourth goal of the season. The Islanders scored three times in the final 7:14 and erased deficits of 2-1 and 3-2.
Nielsen, Matt Moulson and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for New York, and defenseman Radek Martinek had two assists in his season debut. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 39 shots.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored his eighth goal of the season and now has an NHL-high 18 points. Jussi Jokinen and Deryk Engelland also beat Nabokov but couldn’t stop the Penguins from losing their second straight.
Zatkoff, playing in his second NHL game, made 21 saves.
Pittsburgh dominated the game’s first 50 minutes, peppering Nabokov relentlessly. The veteran hung in long enough for New York’s lifeless offense to get going.
Nielsen evened it 2-2 with 7:14 remaining on a nifty deflection. The tie lasted all of 16 seconds as Engelland – a defenseman being used as a fourth-line forward due to Penguins injuries – crashed the net for his first goal in 61 games.
New York, however, kept coming. Shortly after Engelland’s tally, Bouchard took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover deep in its own end and deked his way by Zatkoff to make it 3-3.
The Penguins’ defense gave Bailey two chances to bury the game-winner.
Zatkoff made a sprawling save to stop Bailey on the doorstep, but the goalie couldn’t grab the rebound. Nielsen immediately fed Bailey again and he kept jabbing at the puck until it found its way behind Zatkoff, setting off a celebration on the Islanders bench.
The meeting was the first between the teams since a tense playoff series last spring. The heavily favored Penguins survived in six games, winning the clincher on Books Orpik’s overtime goal.
The Islanders viewed their energetic performance against the Eastern Conference’s top seed as a springboard but haven’t been able to generate any early momentum.
New York came in with just one victory in its previous six games, each of them decided by a single goal.
Moulson gave the Islanders the early lead, getting his own rebound in front of Zatkoff and backhanding the puck into an open net 10:14 into the first period.
The Penguins needed barely three minutes to tie it.
Seconds after a penalty to Bailey expired, Brandon Sutter wristed a shot from the left circle that smacked off Nabokov’s chest and went right to Jokinen’s stick. The forward had little trouble beating a badly out of position Nabokov for his fifth goal of the season and his 12th in 20 regular-season games with Pittsburgh.
Crosby put the Penguins in front to stay six minutes into the second period when he and Chris Kunitz broke loose for a 2-on-1 rush. Crosby’s wrist shot from the right circle found a sliver of space between Nabokov’s pad and his blocker before sneaking inside the far post.
Pittsburgh’s constant buzzing took some of the pressure off Zatkoff, who struggled in his only other start, a sloppy 6-3 loss to Florida on Oct. 11.
Handed the backup job when Tomas Vokoun went down with a blood clot in his pelvis that will sideline the veteran for at least three months, Zatkoff figures to only play sporadically behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who has sparkled during the first three weeks of the season.
While Zatkoff was certainly steadier than in his NHL debut, he couldn’t get a glove on Nielsen’s beautiful deflection that sparked New York’s scintillating finish.
Note: Pittsburgh D Kris Letang played 25:32 in his season debut. Letang missed nine games due to a lower-body injury.
By WILL GRAVES
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