Kyle Okposo registered a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” and then scored again in the shootout to lead the Islanders to a 4-3 comeback win over the Philadelphia Flyers Monday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum.
It was an important game for the Islanders who blew a lead in the third period in Philadelphia Saturday night and trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes today.
When the team needed him most, Okposo was at the forefront of their comeback effort. He dropped the gloves with Philadelphia’s Brayden Coburn midway through the first period after Coburn hit him with a wicked slash. In the second period, he set up linemate John Tavares on a power play goal that tied the game 1-1 and then scored himself on the power play with 2:58 left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Then in the shootout, Okposo beat Ray Emery on a backhander in the fourth round to clinch the victory for the Islanders.
Coach Jack Capuano was pleased with Okposo’s play. “He’s a leader on this team and he’ll do what it takes to win,” Capuano said. “You have to play hard and you have to play physical. I thought he did that tonight and the guys rallied around him.”
The game got off to a physical start as both teams seemed to hold grudges from Saturday night’s meeting in Philadelphia. Everybody was finishing their checks and there were plenty of extra taps with sticks and gloves behind the play.
Matt Carkner and Jay Rosehill had a bout 5:54 into the game, followed by the Coburn-Okposo bout a little more than six minutes later.
The Flyers outshot the Islanders 14-9 in the period but both Emery and Isles’ starter Anders Nilsson played well.
Philadelphia had a stronger second period and took a 3-1 lead on two goals by Matt Read and one by Wayne Simmonds. Tavares’ power play tally at 9:26 got the Isles on the board but things did not look very good for the home team after 40 minutes and the home crowd of 16,048 grew restless as the Islanders headed off the ice.
In the locker room, Capuano and the Islanders remained confident. “We told them if they got more than 40 shots on goal in this game, we’d give ourselves a chance to win,” Capuano said.
Forward Brock Nelson recalled that the coaches instructed the Isles to, “Just to push the pace, get into the 0-zone, grind it down low, get the puck down low and get bodies to the net.”
The strategy paid off. Nelson scored at 8:16 just six seconds after an Islanders power play expired and then Okposo evened the score with 2:58 left on the clock to send the game to overtime.
In the extra session, the Flyers dominated play, spending most of the five minutes in the Isles’ zone, but Nilsson came up with three big saves to send the game to a shootout.
Frans Nielsen and Tavares scored in the first three rounds for the Isles while Claude Giroux and Matt Read scored for Philadelphia. In the fourth round, Okposo beat Emery on a backhander while Nilsson stopped Sean Couturier’s wrist shot to clinch the victory for the Islanders.
The Islanders have very little time to enjoy this afternoon’s victory as they return to action Tuesday night when they face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Andrew MacDonald hopes the win helps the Islanders build momentum as they head into a stretch of games against the teams they need to pass if they hope to make a late run at a playoff spot. “It’s one game at a time for us right now. We realize the importance of tomorrow’s game, another divisional game against a rival,” MacDonald said. “We have to be really prepared mentally and physically and we have to be prepared for a really good game tomorrow night.”
MacDonald led all players with 30:39 of ice time.
Flyers forward Jakub Voracek injured his hand during the game and will be returning to Philadelphia for further evaluation.
The Islanders outhit the Flyers 32-22 led by Matt Matin with 8 and Cal Clutterbuck with 7.
The Flyers blocked 22 shots led by former Islanders captain Mark Streit with 4.