The New York Islanders started the second half of the season on the right skate, with a 4-1 win over the Atlanta Thrashers at the Philips Arena on Tuesday night. The Islanders were led by solid goaltending from Kevin Poulin and a three point night from Kyle Okposo. Defenseman Travis Hamonic contributed and scored his first NHL goal.
“I thought we came out pretty well,” Okposo said. “We gave up some chances in the first, but we rebounded in the second. We were able to get a couple quick goals and we had a pretty good game tonight.”
At 11:19 of the third period, Okposo scored his second goal of the night - his second of the season - when Michael Grabner’s speed pushed the linemates into a 2-on-1 rush. A quick pass from Grabner through a Thrashers d-man’s legs gave Okposo the opportunity to wrist the puck past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
“It was like a training camp for Kyle (Okposo) in his first two or three games, with him being out so long, but he’s worked extremely hard to get back where he’s at,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s rewarding for him to get two (goals) tonight.”
Okposo’s two goals were part of the three unanswered scores in the second period, which elevated the Islanders to a 3-1 lead. At 5:23, Hamonic scored his first NHL goal to tie the score at 1 with a snap shot from the center of the circles. It was Matt Moulson who screened Pavelec and assured Hamonic the goal was rightfully his.
“It’s pretty neat,” Hamonic said his goal. “It’s a pretty cool accomplishment. It’s a lot better because we got the win, so it’s a lot more exciting for me. Again, I thought the guys felt pretty well, but as far as the goal, it’s a dream to score a goal in the National Hockey League and when you finally get it, you’re pretty excited about it.”
Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders shoots and scores against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on February 1, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)
On the bench, his teammates had fun teasing the rookie defenseman.
“We were congratulating him,” Okposo said. “That’s a big one for him and we were all happy for him. He was a little rusty in the first so we were giving it to him a little bit but it was good to see him get that one.”
Okposo scored his first goal of the season to bring the Islanders ahead 2-1. The scoresheet said the goal was unassisted at 16:39, but the conversion resulted from an initial set up from Grabner and John Tavares tried to shovel the puck in the goal, while Okposo got the rebound.
Exactly one minute later (17:39), PA Parenteau scored a power play goal with a snap shot from the left faceoff circle. Tavares and Okposo assisted.
But the game didn’t start out as smoothly.
“We thought we’d be a little more rusty,” Okposo said. “We had a little rust in the first period, but I thought we battled back and we really found our legs. It was a good team effort tonight.”
The Islanders gave up the first goal of the game for the 12th time in the last 13 games when former Islander Freddy Meyer netted his first goal of the season at 14:31 of the first period. Nik Antropov and Alexander Burmistrov assisted.
“When they scored, I didn’t really know what happened,” Poulin said. “I was shocked a little bit. I was surprised because his stick was behind the net, but when you watched the replay you could see that he kicked (the puck) and the referee said it hit me before it went in the net. So it’s hard to judge. It’s a grey area.”
The game was also the first time this season that the Islanders have won a game when they have outshot their opponent. The Islanders put 33 shots on Pavelec, while the Thrashers only placed 26 shots on Poulin, who earned his third NHL win.
“I thought we played a pretty smart road game,” Capuano said. “We made a lot of pretty high percentage plays and I’m pretty proud of the ways the guys scored tonight.”