St. Paul, MN, native Kyle Okposo capped off a gutsy comeback, as the Islanders overcame a three-goal deficit and beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Okposo (two goals, one assist) and Thomas Hickey (one goal, two assists) led the way for the Islanders, who rallied from a 3-0 hole. The Islanders scored five goals in the final 37 minutes of the take for their first three-goal comeback since Mar. 22, 1994.
“It’s fun to get a win like that,” Okposo said. “We kept chipping away. We were down 3-0 and we just regrouped and decided we were going to go after them and start moving our feet. In the first 22 minutes we weren’t doing that.”
Okposo gave the Islanders their first lead of the game with 7:47 to play in the third, as the Olympic hopeful streaked down the right wing and blasted a slap shot by Josh Harding. The Wild made a late push and briefly tied the score, but 27 seconds later Okposo scored his second goal in two minutes to the put the Isles ahead for good.
“The first goal was just a dipper,” Okposo said. “I think it hit a stick and just went down. The second one, I tried to get in there hard on the forecheck. The puck was just sitting there so I put it in.”
The Islanders spotted the Wild an early three-goal lead, as RyanSuter, Jonas Brodin and former-Islander Nino Niederreiter all scored in the opening 23 minutes. Suter‘s first of the season had the Wild up 1-0 after the opening frame, before Brodin andNiederreiter scored 2:20 apart early in the second.
“We weren’t very good,” Cal Clutterbuck, who was playing his former team for the first time, said. “They had a stranglehold on the game there for a while, but we woke up and dug in a little bit. We started getting back to what makes us successful.”
Islanders captain John Tavares kick-started the offense with his 14th goal of the season, tapping in a loose puck in the Wild crease at 8:45 of the second period. Then with 1:02 left to go in the middle frame, Clutterbuck deflected Hickey’s point shot, cutting the deficit to one and tipping the momentum in the Islanders' favor.
The Wild entered the game 14-0-3 when leading after two periods, but the Islanders kept coming in the third. Hickey pinched off the blueline and deflected a Colin McDonald feed to tie the score at 6:30, setting up the frantic finish and Okposo’s heroics.
“Kevin made some big saves when he had to,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “They had some chances and we had a few breakdowns, but we got a few bounces. It’s about time that we got them.”
Poulin finished with 33 saves, while the penalty kill was a perfect four-for-four. Harding made 26 saves in the loss.
The Islanders will head to Boston Monday for a New Year’s Eve date with the Bruins. Puck drop from the TD Garden goes at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night.
NOTES: University of Minnesota alumni Thomas Vanek had two assists, extending his point streak to five games (3g/4a)… Kyle Okposo extended his point streak to six games (4g/4a)… Michael Grabner (sick) and Josh Bailey (upper body) missed Sunday’s game and are considered day-to-day… Thomas Hickey led the Islanders with a plus-four rating… Travis Hamonic led all Islanders with 27:09 TOI.
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