Kyle Okposo scored the only goal in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders to a 2-1 victory over the visiting New York Rangers in front of 15,795 boisterous fans at the Barclay Center. This was the first meeting of the two rivals in Brooklyn and the game provided plenty of excitement and thrills for fans of both teams. Both goalies played well. Jaroslav Halak made 33 saves to earn the win for the Isles while Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves in a losing effort for the Rangers.
“It was loud,” Isles head coach Jack Capuano when asked about the feeling in the arena. “It’s the loudest it’s been for me this year so far. It was a great atmosphere and I think the fans got their money’s worth…There was good energy and I feel our guys fed off the energy very well.”
“It was a playoff type game,” Isles captain John Tavares added. “The same with the atmosphere. That’s usually how it is against these guys…It was intense. You could tell the physicality was there, the intensity was there.”
The Isles got off to a slow start in the first period and were outshot 13-6. Only strong play by Halak managed to keep the game scoreless.
“For whatever the reason, Casey’s line (the fourth line) was the only line bringing us energy and playing with any physicality in the first period,” Capuano admitted. “We weren’t engaging, we weren’t initiating anything. Guys were just trying to survive the shift.”
That quickly changed once the second period started as the Islanders began to pick up the pace and started to control the tempo of the game.
The home team drew first blood on a John Tavares scored his 12th goal of the year during a 5-on-3 power play. With Keith Yandle already in the penalty box for hooking, Dan Girardi shot the puck over the glass to put the Rangers at a two-man disadvantage. The Islanders went to the net and Tavares was able to snap the puck past Lundqvist at 12:22 to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers evened the score with 1:23 left in the second period when Viktor Stalberg deflected a shot from the point by Marc Staal and the puck landed behind Halak. The Islanders owned a 16-9 shot advantage in the second period and felt confident going into the dressing room at the second intermission despite allowing the late goal.
The Islanders continued to play well in the third period and limited the Rangers to just six shots on goal while taking 12. Lundqvist and Halak were both on top of their games and the game remained tied 1-1 after 60 minutes.
The Rangers had a great chance to win the game in overtime when the Isles were called for too many men just 1:12 into the extra session. Halak stood tall and the Isles were able to kill off the penalty and force the shootout.
Okposo was the first shooter in the skills competition and the only one to score a goal. It was enough to send the Isles half of the crowd home happy in the first indoor meeting between these two teams not played at either Madison Square Garden or the Nassau Coliseum.
It was a big bounce back performance for Halak who struggled a bit in his last shootout performance last week against Florida.
“The last shootout game was not great for me but I’m glad we got the win tonight,” Halak said. “It was a huge two points.”
The Isles return to action on Friday night when they host the St. Louis Blues at Barclays.
Each team was credited with 52 hits in the game. Matt Martin led all players with nine while Cal Clutterbuck added seven. J.T. Miller led the Rangers with eight hits.
Calvin de Haan had a strong game and led the Isles with five blocked shots.
The Islanders are now 8-1-1 in games that John Tavares scores a goal this season.