Kyle Okposo capped off an Islanders comeback with a shootout winner, as the Islanders rallied for a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Monday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum.
Okposo beat Flyers goalie Ray Emery with a backhand in the fourth round of the shootout to win it, but was a driving force for the Islanders all game, recording his first career Gordie Howe hat trick in the comeback win. The Isles power forward scored the tying goal with 2:58 to play in the third period, assisted on John Tavares’ second-period goal and dropped the gloves with Braydon Coburn in the first.
“It was a bit of a see-saw battle, but I thought we came out hard in the third,” Okposo said. “Frans [Nielsen] made a great play on my goal and John was in the right spot for his and I thought we did a good job of staying with it.”
The Islanders trailed 3-1 heading into the final frame, but outshot the Flyers 17-3 and converted for two goals. Brock Nelson tapped in a cross-crease feed from Josh Bailey at 8:16 to cut the deficit to one, allowing Okposo to tie the game late on the power play.
“We played a pretty good game, even when we were down,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “We had our chances… Emery was making some good saves. We just had to stay the course. We talked after the second period and said if we continued and got 40 shots in this game, we’d give ourselves a chance to win. Our guys battled, they were relentless, they played hard tonight.”
The Flyers pushed the pace in overtime, but goalie Anders Nilsson held the fort, making all three saves in the extra frame and two-of-four in the shootout for his first shootout win. Of Nilsson’s 26 saves, none were bigger than an overtime stop on Wayne Simmonds, whose shot deflected off of Andrew MacDonald’s arm and caught the rookie goalie in the back, narrowly missing an open net.
“He really came up with some key saves,” Tavares said. “He made some key saves and shut the door after the third one. There was no more going in and that makes a big difference for us.”
The win was the Islanders first against the Flyers this season and avenged Saturday’s 6-4 loss at Wells Fargo Center.
“Wins within the division are huge,” Okposo said. “That second point [today] is huge for us.”
The teams played a scoreless, but physical first period, with two fights including Okposo’s. Okposo took exception to a slash from Coburn and dropped the gloves for the second time in his career. Capuano called it a rallying point for the team.
“Obviously this is a crucial stretch for us and its going to be contagious for all of our guys,” Capuano said. “He’s a leader on our team and he’s going to do what it takes to win.”
Matt Read scored a pair of second-period goals for the Flyers, sandwiching the goals from Tavares and Simmonds. Read’s first came shorthanded 1:26 into the period, as he sent a backhand high-glove side on Nilsson. His second came on a similar play, as he opted for the forehand and beat Nilsson over the shoulder.
After giving up the shorthanded goal, the Islanders power play scored on their next opportunity, as Tavares deposited his 23rd of the season. The power play finished the game two-for-six, but went two-for-four following the shorthanded tally.
Next the Islanders play the third of four straight against Metropolitan Division opponents, as they take on the New York Rangers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
NOTES: Okposo’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick was the first of his career… Nelson has goals in two straight and in five of his last eight games… Matt Martin (8) and Cal Clutterbuck (7) combined for 15 hits as the Islanders outhit the Flyers 32-22… Andrew MacDonald led all skaters with 30:39 TOI… FransNielsen led the Islanders with five shots.
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