Another night, another impressive performance from the Islanders' top line.
With the Isles trailing 1-0, the trio of Anders Lee, John Tavares, and Josh Bailey got their club on the board with a highlight reel goal. Tavares shuffled a blind, backhanded pass to Bailey at the far circle. Bailey then turned as if to shoot and drew Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers' defense toward him before feathering a beautiful pass to an emerging Lee at the side of the net. Lee took the pass with his back to the net, spun and cashed it in to even the game at one.
"All these games are pretty much playoff games for us," Lee told reporters after the game. "It's just keeping that excitement in the room. We're in a position where we're chasing down teams and it's a fun one to be in, especially after the way we started the season. It's just an exciting time. It's easy to get up for a game like this, especially after getting thumped the other night."
For Lee, it was his 22nd goal of the season, and his 10th point (five goals, five assists) in the last eight games.
You can say whatever you want about who should and should not be playing with JT on the top line, but right now, I'm not sure there are two guys that could look better with the captain than Lee and Bailey. Lee, who is now just three goals shy of his career high that he set in his rookie season, has just been a machine since Thanksgiving. And Bailey has shown playmaking instincts that I think only a scant few of us every dreamed he would. That pass to Lee was so pitch perfect, it evoked Evgeni Malkin's assist that was making the rounds on all the highlight shows the night before. And any time you remind someone of Malkin with something you've done on the ice, you know you've done something right.
I know Bailey took three penalties, and the four minute high sticking one could have turned the whole game around had Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin not bailed him out on the kill. But with the way the Islanders have been rolling out four lines and the high level of play the top line has sustained for the better part of three months, I feel pretty optimistic about this team's chances of keeping the ship moving in the right direction. Stay hot, gentlemen!