There was passion, patience and skill. And now there is a 2-0 lead.
The Islanders continued to play their hockey style and managed to beat the Penguins 3-1 in the second game of their first-round playoff series Friday night at the Coliseum.
That gave them a two-game advantage in the match of the top seven opponents as they leave the friendly bounds of Hempstead Turnpike for the third game in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
This is the first time the club has held a 2-0 playoff lead since the 1983 Stanley Cup final as it tries to win its second playoff series since 1993.
The Islanders had just won a spectacular win in the first game on Wednesday night when Josh Bailey's 4-139 overtime goal sealed the deal. It was a way for the club to open its first playoff series with the home advantage on the ice since 1988.
But the Islanders knew that the Penguins would come back for this one with a renewed spirit, as they had the championship pedigree after winning three Stanley Cups in the last decade. And they brought a more physical game from the start, with the two teams exchanging haymakers, with stars in the middle of it all – including Mathew Barzal.
"I think they're taking advantage of it," coach Barry Trotz said Friday morning. "I think Barzy, in particular, really enjoyed the moment."
Towards the end of the second period, Barzal signed on with Pittsburgh defenseman Marcus Pettersson, who put him in the table after Anthony Beauvillier scored a goal, 1-1. While the goal was celebrated, Barzal returned and checked Pettersson close to the face, and the celebration quickly turned into a real kerfuffle.
Barzal's 21-year-old boyfriend barely broke his passion and continued to shout after Pettersson as the two men sat in their respective boxes.
"I think he likes the big time," Trotz said.
At the beginning of the third period, this 1-1 tie remained intact. Jordan Eberle scored his second goal of the series. He managed to go up the right flank, then to shoot a setback at 7:54 for a 2-1 advantage.
The Colosseum was going crazy at that time, as if all concern was expressed by chanting "Let's Go Islanders!" Then Bailey added, placing a loose puck in front of goalkeeper Matt Murray at 11:38 for a power play goal that made it 3-1. The islands had already played 0 for 5 on the power play, but they had one when it mattered the most.
The Penguins eliminated Murray for the additional striker with just under three minutes to play, but Robin Lehner managed to save Phil Kessel from his dazzling glove to keep him 3-1 with a time remaining of 1:17 in the regulatory time. Then, as the final horn sounded and the match was over, there were still a few punches, the two teams finally retired and Sunday seemed to be very far away.
After all the fireworks of the first game, this night began rather slowly and sloppy, with six ice creams in the first five minutes. But after a first goalless period, things improved during the second period.
The Penguins were first on the board when a long shot by Erik Gudbranson went through the traffic and beat Lehner at 10:36, bringing the score to 1-0. The Islanders have not been very good this season and the fact that the power play has not fought so well did not help: 54 seconds of a 5-2 advantage in the second half, which were in vain.
But the islands managed to draw when Beauvillier sent a superb pass for the saucer to Barzal, whose reorientation was initially blocked by Murray before Beauvillier jumped on the puck and hit home at 1:25 pm.
The score was tied, Barzal started a big game without grace, and the third part was overflowing with tension.