Kyle Okposo’s shootout goal gave the New York Islanders a 2-1 victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at Barclays Center. The game wasn’t pretty, but the Isles found a way to get a badly needed two points in the standings as they fight to lock up a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Two points at this point in the season is huge,” said forward Anders Lee. “We haven’t been scoring as many 5-on-5 goals as we’d like to, so to squeeze one out at the end is huge for us. Obviously it’s a tight race now and every point is crucial.”
For the first 40 minutes, the two teams played a choppy game filled with missed passes, precious few scoring opportunities and very little flow. The Islanders managed just six shots on goal in the first period and 11 in the second although few were quality scoring chances. Carolina fared about the same, putting up seven shots in the opening 20 minutes and 11 in the second stanza.
The Hurricanes finally broke the scoreless tie when Derek Ryan scored his second goal of the season on a backhand that Isles goalie Thomas Greiss took a poor angle on. The Isles found themselves trailing 1-0 with just 1:29 left in the second period.
Neither team was playing well through 40 minutes, but the Islanders kept their composure. “We didn’t play great, but we stayed with it and we never panicked or got frustrated,” said center Frans Nielsen who was playing in his 600th career NHL game. “That was a good sign. We want to pick it up a little bit.”
The Islanders did pick it up in the third period. They started playing more aggressive hockey forced Carolina to take penalties. Anders Lee deflected a shot by John Tavares on the power play at the 12:08 mark of the third period to tie the game at 1-1. Lee was set up just outside Cam Ward’s crease and was able to get his stick on the puck and get it past the helpless Hurricanes goalie.
The Islanders outshot the ‘Canes 12-5 in the third period and controlled the tempo of the game for the first time all night.
“We skated and we got more pucks to the net [in the third period],” said Isles’ head coach Jack Capuano. “I give them credit. I think both teams played a similar style, structurally. I thought that we skated a little bit more. We used the back of the net. I thought our defense got more involved. We did some good things.”
The game was still tied after 60 minutes and neither team was able to score in overtime. In the shootout, Okposo was the first player to shoot and he beat Ward with a great double move that made the Carolina goalie commit to his backhand while Okposo slipped the puck by him on the forehand.
“I actually wanted to just fake it and go backhand,” Okposo said. “But he seemed to bite pretty hard on the first one [fake] so I just went back and was able to tuck it in the open side.”
Greiss finished the game with 26 saves plus three stops in the shootout to earn his 20th win of the season. That doubles his previous career-high, set back in 2013-14 with the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Islanders home stand continues Thursday night when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Barclays Center at 7:00 pm.
The Islanders wore their black jerseys tonight and improved their record in the new uniforms to 6-2-1.
Official attendance was 13,733.
The team honored MSG Network analyst Stan Fischler during the game for his 40 seasons of covering the team.