Josh Bailey stepping up big-time for Islanders versus Bruins

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Islanders fans love him or they hate him.

But all can surely agree Josh Bailey has stepped up his game this postseason. His smart shots and precise passes helped the Islanders secure a 5-4 Game 5 victory Monday night in Boston, giving the Isles an opportunity to advance to the conference finals with a victory Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

First, it was a pretty assist. At the conclusion of a floundering second-period power play, Bailey darted a pass that deflected off Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton twice, landed right on Kyle Palmieri’s stick and ended up in the back of the net.

Next, it was a timely snipe. With the game tied 2-2, Bailey chipped the puck in deep, worked his way to the empty slot and beat Tuukka Rask.

“Well it happened quick,” Bailey said. “[Anthony Beauvillier] made a great play, good poise. I just tried to get lost. [Jean-Gabriel Pageau] made a heck of a play, too. I found myself alone and I just missed one the shift before, so that one felt good.”

Josh Bailey (right) celebrates his goal with Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Monday.
Josh Bailey (right) celebrates his goal with Jean-Gabriel Pageau on Monday.
AP

It was déjà vu — another convincing Game 5 effort from Bailey. In the first round against the Penguins, his scoring line was similar, featuring a goal — the game-winner in overtime — and an assist.

Bailey recorded his 14th career postseason multi-point game Monday, good for ninth in franchise history. Seven of the eight players ahead of him have their numbers in the Coliseum rafters.

Like the legends before him, the 31-year-old forward steps up when it matters most. For years, Bailey has embodied what it means to be an Islander: staying calm, and sticking to the task at hand.

“We didn’t panic. There was a calmness about our group,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “To me, experience is, instead of worrying about all the things, it does not matter if it is hockey or life, experience just lets you focus on four or five things that are the most important. Everything else will fall into place.”

Now, Bailey has done it again, stepping up when it matters most and helping the Islanders earn another hard-fought, team victory.

“We found a way to win. Good teams do that,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “We have a lot of character in this locker room and a lot of guys who have battled with each other for the last three years throughout the playoffs. You go through that many rounds and that’s how you gain character. You really want to play hard for one another.

“So, you see the hits, you see the blocked shots, you see the bearing down at the end of the game with the last five minutes when we are protecting a lead. All character things and we have a lot of it in this locker room.”

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