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Okposo Showing His Edge

In Game 2, the Islanders alternate captain dropped the gloves when he needed to and scored the game-winning goal

Saturday, 05.4.2013 / 4:51 PM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Okposo Showing His Edge

As Kyle Okposo saw his teammate absorb a big hit five minutes into the second period of Friday’s Game 2, his instincts led him to do something he hadn’t in over seven years.

The power forward engaged the perpetrator, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen, then shed his helmet and gloves before delivering a power right.

“I didn’t really think about it,” Okposo said. “You don’t go planning those things, but it gave the team a little spark and that’s it.”

Okposo took a few shots in return before the fight ended, a small price to pay for a comeback-playoff win.

“He felt it was necessary to step up and sacrifice himself,” John Tavares said. “Kyle’s a big, strong guy. If you see him with his shirt off you realize you probably don’t want to mess around with him.”

Okposo’s been a standout player for the Islanders this series. He’s led on the ice by finishing checks and playing smart defensively – he has an even rating through two games – and firing up the bench with a timely scrap.

“When you see a guy who doesn’t (fight) very often it gets your troops fired up a little bit more,” Travis Hamonic said. “You could see the game change after that.”

Fourteen seconds after the scrap, the Islanders scored the first of three unanswered goals as they gritted out a 4-3 win. Fittingly, Okposo scored the game-winner in the third period, quieting an otherwise raucous Pittsburgh crowd.

“It felt real deserving that he got the winner last night,” Tavares said.

As one of the bigger Islanders players, Okposo bears the responsibility of using that size to win battles against a large Penguins squad, whose entire d-corps are over 200 pounds.

His defensive coverage has also improved through the last 25 games and it shows up on the stat-sheet and win column. Since a minus-3 outing on March 10 against the Penguins, Okposo has posted a plus or even rating in 19-of-24 games. He also scored 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) as the Islanders went 14-6-4 in that span, including the playoffs.

“I just try to finish my checks and play with an edge,” Okposo said. “Winning battles is a pretty big strength in my game.”

His play inspired other Islanders to contribute physically and agitate the Penguins.

“No one likes to get played rough, no one likes to get hit a lot,” Hamonic said. “No one likes the game between the game when it goes against you.”

Okposo didn’t plan to drop the gloves in Game 2, but the playoffs affect each player differently. He hadn’t fought in his NHL career, but he’s shown that he’s willing to fight for the team and the series win.

The Islanders and the Penguins answer the bell for round three Sunday at noon.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
5 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
6 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
7 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
12 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
15 BUF 55 21 28 6 125 151 48
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 50 20 23 -2 43
K. Okposo 51 15 28 -9 43
F. Nielsen 53 15 19 -1 34
B. Nelson 53 20 11 -1 31
M. Grabovski 53 9 16 3 25
A. Lee 53 9 15 0 24
J. Bailey 52 9 15 4 24
N. Leddy 53 3 21 -7 24
R. Strome 42 6 15 -4 21
C. Cizikas 53 5 12 5 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 13 11 4 .918 2.27
T. Greiss 15 6 2 .929 2.24
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