After being denied a spot on Team USA Hockey’s Olympic roster on New Years Day, Kyle Okposo took his frustrations out on the ice Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks when it counted, with the game on the line. The New York Islanders winger scored the game-winning overtime goal, defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champions, 3-2.
The overtime win was the Islanders third win in a row, marking the team’s first three-game win streak of the season. Their last two wins came against two of the most competitive teams in the league, the 2013 President’s Trophy winners and 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, the Blackhawks, and the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins.
The fast-paced game was back and forth to start off the first period before Isles center Casey Cizikas stole the puck from Bryan Bickell in the neutral zone for a breakaway. Cizikas beat Corey Crawford with a wrist shot past his stick side blocker at 15:24 to give the Islanders the early lead.
After the 1first intermission, the Islanders came back on the ice and picked up where they left off. Thomas Hickey passed the puck to Andrew MacDonald at the blue line, and MacDonald drove a slap shot into traffic in front of Crawford. After the initial carom off Crawford’s pad, Okposo scooped up the rebound and dished it across the crease to Thomas Vanek who scored backhand over Crawford’s stick at 8:09 to make the score 2-0, Islanders.
Following the Vanek goal, the Blackhawks began to rally, and an untimely tripping penalty by Matt Carkner gave the Hawks a man advantage. On the ensuing power play Nick Leddy found Kris Versteeg along the boards, as Versteeg rotated and drove to the net, the Islanders penalty killers challenged him closing the gap. Versteeg then passed the puck cross ice to a wide open Brent Seabrook on the hash marks, and Seabrook one-timed a heater past Evgeni Nabokov at 18:36 to make the score 2-1.
With momentum on their side, the Blackhawks continued their push in the third period. While working the boards in the Islanders zone, Ben Smith passed the puck to Patrick Sharp, who drove to the crease from behind the net. Nabokov made the initial save, but with pressure coming from Sharp, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Smith in front of the net, it only took seconds for Smith to bury the rebound to tie the game 2-2 with 1:50 left in regulation.
The remaining time expired without another goal. Once overtime began, it wasn’t long before the Islanders took control in the Blackhawks zone. MacDonald drove the play into the zone then dished the puck to Isles captain John Tavares along the boards. Tavares drove to the net, attracting three of the four Blackhawks on ice before shooting the puck. While Crawford made a quick pad save and released a rebound right into the slot, an unguarded Okposo drove to the net in anticipation of the rebound and one-timed the puck top shelf with authority for the game-winner.
The final score of the game was Islanders 3, Blackhawks 2.
The Islanders move to 14-21-7 and will play the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.
The Blackhawks move to 28-7-8 and continued their road trip, defeating the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Friday before heading home to play the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Three Stars of the Game
1) Kyle Okposo
2) Evgeni Nabokov
3) Ben Smith