Kyle Okposo made his season debut in the New York Islanders 45th game of the 2010-2011 season, but could not help his teammates put points on the board as they lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday night.
“I thought Kyle was all right,” interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “He had some chances on the power play in the slot there. The puck jumped off his stick there a couple of times, but I was pleased. One thing I was concerned about was the physicality of the game, the wall play, the play down low and his one-on-one, two-on-two battles. I thought he handled it pretty well.”
Special teams was a major factor in the Islanders loss. The team drew six penalties, but was unsuccessful on all six power play opportunities. It didn’t help that the Isles only had eight shots while having a man advantage.
“I thought we had some good looks,” Capuano said. “We had great zone time, we had good looks. We were spreading them out. We had net presence a few times, but instead of getting pucks to the net, we were moving it down low and back up top, east, west. We didn’t seem to get the puck through.”
Nicklas Backstrom gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead over the Islanders 3:38 into the second period as Alexander Ovechkin made his second assist on the night. The Capitals captain took the initial shot, which was saved by goaltender Rick DiPietro, but Backstrom was there at the paint to tap in the rebound.
Goaltender Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals and teammate Tom Poti #3 defend the net as Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders looks for the rebound on January 20, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
“Well I thought Backstrom looked pretty good tonight,” Capuano said. “I think we could have taken the body, limited time and space for those guys. But those guys are elite players. I thought our guys did a good job.”
The Islanders worked hard to battle back. It was Josh Bailey who sent a pass flying through the neural zone to help edge Michael Grabner on a breakaway to decrease the score differential 2-1. Skating into the offensive zone, Grabner deked rookie goaltender Braden Holtby and scored the Isles only goal of the game with a backhanded shot glove side at 5:15.
“Bails (Bailey) had the puck on his stick and I knew he was going to flip it,” Grabner said. “It was a good chip by him and I just used my speed to get around the D-man.”
By the end of the first period, the Islanders had outshot the Capitals 11 to nine and showed some great pressure on the power play, but it was Jason Chimera who gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead. He scored 3:41 into the opening faceoff as Okposo left Backstrom’s side to pressure Ovechkin and couldn’t stop him before he made the pass to Chimera in the crease.
“Backstrom was coming in there and I was back-checking on him,” Okposo said. “I knew he was looking for Ovechkin and I just pulled back at the last second. It kind of slipped through my legs and by me and that was all the time that he needed to pass it in front.”
The loss was the Islanders first game of a back-to-backs that will see them take on the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night at the HSBC Arena.
“It’s always nice to have a game the next day when you lose so we can forget about this one and start to think about tomorrow,” Islanders center Frans Nielsen said. “We need to go in there and get the win. It’s going to be a tough game and we have to be ready.”
DiPietro did not make the trip as he was experiencing flu-like symptoms.