Kyle Okposo scored the game winner with just 3:17 left in the third period as the New York Islanders earned a rare road win over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 Wednesday night. It was the Isles’ first win in Denver since 1999.
“Anybody that’s been around the Islanders will tell you that Kyle Okposo has had some great opportunities and been unable to score,” Islanders Coach
Scott Gordon explained. “There isn’t a guy that’s more deserving than he was, to be able to get that opportunity and have it be a game-winner.”
While much of the pre-game hype surrounded the return of goalie Rick DiPietro, it was Dwayne Roloson who made 30 saves, many of them spectacular, to earn the win. DiPietro dressed for the Islanders for the first time this season and served as Roloson’s backup. He is expected to start one of the remaining two games on the Isles’ current road trip.
The Avs got off to a quick start in the game, scoring a power play goal at the 2:48 mark of the opening period. With Andy Sutton in the penalty box for interference, Chris Stewart put home the rebound of a John-Michael Liles shot which Roloson had trouble controlling.
The Isles drew even with 1:50 left in the first period on a goal by Jon Sim. Schremp took the initial shot which hit Sim in the back. The veteran managed to get the rebound and put it past Craig Anderson to send the teams into the locker room tied 1-1 after 20 minutes.
The highlight of the game was a spectacular power play goal by Isles’ forward Rob Schremp which gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead late in the second period. Frans Nielsen took a slap shot and the rebound bounced high in the air and came to Schremp at the right circle. He caught the puck high in the air and put it in front of his body where he took a baseball-style swing at the puck to swat it out of midair and into the net. The referees immediately waived the goal off, saying it was hit in with a high stick, but replays clearly showed the puck was below the cross bar when Schremp batted it out of the air with his stick and the goal counted.
Schremp often practices trick shots like that before the team takes the ice for practice, but nobody expected he’d be able to make a shot like that during a game.
“I would never have gotten it off had I let it drop to the ice,” Schremp said. “I just whacked at it.”
The Avalanche evened the score with 10:23 left in the third period on a goal by Matt Hendricks. He redirected a shot by Brandon Yip and beat Roloson.
The Avs outshot the Islanders 14-7 in the third period, but Roloson kept the game at 2-2 until Okposo’s game winner late in the game. The play started when Colorado’s Kyle Cumiskey fell down and set up a 3-on-1 breakaway for the Isles. Okposo skated down the right wing, used his teammates as a decoy and rifled a wrist shot high over the glove of Anderson to give New York a 3-2 lead.
Okposo had scored only once since November 16 which included an 18-game scoring drought.
“I’ve had some tough luck finding the net,” Okposo admitted. “That made this one so much better.”
The Avalanche pulled their goalie with 1:20 left in the game, but couldn’t quite get the equalizier.
The Islanders continue their road trip Friday night in Dallas when they face the Stars. Colorado also returns to action Friday night when they head east to take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Jon Sim played in his 400th career NHL game.
This was the first on ice meeting between John Tavares, the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL draft and Matt Duchene, the third overall selection. The Islanders had the first overall choice and selected Tavares. Neither player scored a point in the game. Duchene had four shots on goal and was a minus-one on the game. Tavares was held without a shot but was a plus-one.
Nate Thompson returned to action for the Islanders. Jeff Tambellini and Freddy Meyer were healthy scratches for New York.