NEW YORK – Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo picked a great time to snap an 18-game stretch without a goal.
After contributing a pair of assists in regulation, Okposo's wrist shot from the blue line with 47 seconds remaining in overtime beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory and snap the Blueshirts' four-game winning streak.
Overtime was made necessary thanks to a furious third-period comeback in which the Rangers erased a 2-0 deficit. Center Brandon Dubinsky scored twice, including the game-tying goal with 47 seconds left in regulation with Lundqvist on the bench for an extra attacker.
The rally earned the Rangers a point, but Okposo's long shot that deflected off Rangers defenseman Marc Staal gave the Islanders their second straight win.
And it also got the monkey off Okposo's back.
"It definitely weighs on you a little bit," Okposo said of not scoring since Nov. 14. "You obviously think about it. You try not to. Now all the pressure's off."
Don't confuse the scoring drought with poor play. Leading up to the goal, Okposo was the best player on the ice for either team Saturday night and his overall play during the six-week drought wasn't affected.
"I don't think I've been playing poorly at all," said Okposo, who had 10 assists during those 18 games without a goal. "I think I've been playing very strong recently. Even throughout this drought that I had I still thought I was playing well and getting chances and that's the most important thing."
Islanders coach Scott Gordon acknowledged Okposo's ability to set up his teammates, but also joked about how important it was for the 21-year-old to get a goal.
"I said to Kyle if we had known before going into the game that we could give up one point and have them come back on us and tie it up 2-2 for him to get a goal in overtime, we'd take it," said Gordon, who also said there was no change in Okposo's game during the slump.
"That's one thing you don't have to worry about Kyle, is getting away from what gives him success," Gordon said. "His work ethic is second to none on our team. Saying that, he's been making some plays that have given other players opportunities to score goals."
That effort was on display during the Islanders' second goal of the night.
With the Islanders shorthanded and leading 1-0 in the second period, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto went for the hit while defending a 2-on-2, but Okposo skated right through the check. Okposo got to the puck and fed Blake Comeau for a mini-breakaway, and he beat Lundqvist between the pads to make it 2-0.
"That's just all battle, and it's all hard work and second effort," Gordon said of the play Okposo made to set up Comeau's goal. "Everybody that's an Islander fan knows about that and he does it in all situations."
Okposo's three-point night came in support of Dwayne Roloson, who was stellar while making 36 saves to pick up his second win at Madison Square Garden in 11 days. The 40-year-old goaltender was at his best during the second period, when he made 15 saves to send the Rangers to the intermission down 2-0 and to a chorus of boos from frustrated
Thanks to Dubinsky, that frustration turned into pure joy during the third period.
Dubinsky got the Rangers on the board at 6:07 to cut the lead in half. Center Chris Drury fired a blast from the left face-off circle that Roloson couldn't handle. The rebound fell right to Dubinsky, who backhanded it into the open net.
That set the stage for Dubinsky's tying goal, when he deflected a blast by Ryan Callahan past Roloson to whip the Garden fans into a frenzy and help the Rangers salvage a point against their New York rivals.
"I was just trying to be there, be ready," Dubinsky said of the tying goal, his sixth of the season. "Time is winding down there, we know things are going to go to the net to try and get some traffic and some sticks there, and I think Cally made a great play. I feel like he shot for my stick and I was standing there ready for it and I made the play."
Rangers coach John Tortorella was unhappy with some aspects of his team's game, saying Del Zotto didn’t handle Okposo correctly on the shorthanded goal. But he was pleased with the effort the team put forth to get the game to overtime.
"I thought we stayed with it and we just wanted to chip away," Tortorella said. “I give the guys some credit here as far as grinding away in the third period and getting a point here."
Lundqvist made 19 saves for the Rangers. He has now started 12 straight games 19 of the team's last 20 contests. During this 12-game stretch without a day off, he hasn't looked like someone who has needed a rest, having allowed two goals or less eight times.
"They had the luck they needed, in the end, to get two points," Lundqvist said.
And Okposo's winner?
"It was a fluky goal," Lundqvist said. "It hit our guy and went post and in. I think if we tied the game a little earlier, I think we would have had them. They played pretty solid in their own end, kept us on the outside. We at least tied the game and got a point out of it."
However, on this night, if you believe Lundqvist, it was better to be lucky than good.