Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey aren't much for regrets. Being 23 and 22 may have something to do with that. Neither has much time for wondering what might have been with their young, not-so-stellar NHL careers, or with a season headed for an abrupt end in eight days.
The former top-10 draft picks have shown greater flashes of their promise the last few games since they were moved to the same line, flanking Frans Nielsen. The elusive scoring threats not named Moulson or Tavares that the Isles have been looking for all season surged again Thursday night, accounting for just about all of the offense in a second straight 5-3 win over the contending Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bailey scored twice and had three assists, giving him eight points in the last two games against one of the top teams in the league. Okposo had two goals, giving him a career-high 20, five in the last four games.
"We're just trying to take some pressure off Johnny and the top line," said Bailey, who has seven goals and 10 assists in his last 15 games after going 6-8-14 in the first 60 games. "I don't know what it is. We're finding ways to get on the scoresheet, the line's doing well, the team's doing well."
The back-to-back wins over the Penguins, who were the league's hottest team before inexplicably losing to the Islanders in the last two games, gives the Isles five wins in six games and keeps them mathematically alive for another day, nine points behind the Sabres and Caps with five games to go.
If Buffalo gets a point off the Penguins Friday night, the Islanders will have gone five straight seasons without making the playoffs. That encompasses all four seasons for Bailey and Okposo, who struggled to score along with everyone else aside from John Tavares, Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau.
"It doesn't matter if I get 20 or 20-plus goals, this has been a frustrating season," Okposo said. "Johnny's had a great year, his line has been great and we could have taken some heat off them by scoring more. It's nice to get to 20 goals, but it's still frustrating."
The Isles took a 4-1 lead early in the third on Okposo's second goal of the game, off a patient feed from Bailey. Marty Reasoner's first goal in 71 games and Bailey's first goal of the night, a shorthanded breakaway, accounted for the other goals.
Pittsburgh made the inevitable run as Al Montoya (26 saves) was beaten by Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin, the latter with 1:31 to go. Sidney Crosby, who was held without a point for the second straight game, whiffed on a golden chance from the side of the net with a minute to go, and Bailey sealed the game with an empty-netter with five seconds to play.
"The big thing for me is, that line isn't playing a stationary game. They're always moving," Jack Capuano said. "Secondary scoring has been a key to a few of our wins lately."
The Penguins trail the Rangers, who lead the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division, by five points with five games left.