The Islanders had lots to celebrate in last night's 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Nassau Coliseum. There was the return of top players John Tavares and James Wisniewski. There was the two-goal contribution from defenseman Milan Jurcina to spark a trio of second-period goals. And there was another superb effort by goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
But perhaps the most exciting development for the Islanders is the emphatic emergence of third-year forward Josh Bailey, who delivered another strong performance.
Bailey, who had a goal and an assist, teetered on the verge of breaking out last season. He showed glimpses of the dynamic playmaking center the Islanders hoped for when they moved down - twice - to select him ninth overall in the 2008 draft. He even showed a knack for playing on the wing with little adjustment necessary.
But make no mistake, this season is the season Bailey has been waiting for since breaking into the league as an 18-year-old two seasons ago.
"I just want to establish myself," said Bailey, who wore the team's makeshift MVP trophy hard hat after the game. "The first couple of years, I didn't do that. I had a better year last year, but you want to establish yourself as the player you're going to be for the rest of your career and I want to do that."
"Garth doesn't get enough credit for drafting him," coach Scott Gordon said. "[Bailey] is showing that he was the right guy."
In the first five games, Bailey leads the team with seven points on three goals and four assists.
Bailey's third goal of the season capped an offensive surge in the second period that began with the Islanders' first shorthanded goal of the season.
With captain Doug Weight in the box for a hooking penalty, Jurcina unleashed a blistering slap shot from the point that breezed past Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson's right shoulder at 13:06.
"[Assistant coach] Dean Chynoweth said to me, 'If that didn't hit the net, it would've gone around the rink twice,' " Gordon joked.
Jurcina scored again with a sharp-angle goal at 18:01, and less than a minute later, Bailey went top shelf for a power-play goal at 19:00.
Chris Stewart got Colorado on the board early in the third period, but Michael Grabner scored his first goal as an Islander on an odd-man rush at 4:11 to stymie any Avalanche attack. Tavares had an empty-netter at the end and Roloson made 28 saves.
Notes & quotes: Wisniewski returned after serving a two-game suspension for making a lewd gesture toward Rangers agitator Sean Avery on Monday. Wisniewski reflected on his actions before the game and expressed remorse.
"Stuff like that can't be done in a game, at all, actually," he said. "Kids being able to see that, it's not a good role model situation for myself. Being a leader on the team and a six-year veteran, I can't do stuff like that."
The Islanders' Zenon Konopka fought Stewart five seconds after the first puck was dropped . . . Trent Hunter, who injured his foot in Friday's overtime loss to Pittsburgh, did not play. Defensemen Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais were healthy scratches.