One day after being passed over for a berth on the United States Olympic team Wednesday, Okposo scored 58 seconds into overtime to give the New York Islanders a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.
Okposo sent the fans who made it through the snow to the Nassau Coliseum home happy when he fired a pass from John Tavares past Corey Crawford for his 16th goal of the season to give the Islanders their third consecutive victory.
"Johnny had some time, and I saw both guys [go] to him," Okposo said. "I was hoping the puck would come to me and it popped right on my stick, and I got it over his glove this time."
Tavares, who’s expected to be named to the Canada Olympic team next week, said his linemate should also be going to the Sochi Games.
"It was fitting to see Kyle put that one in," Tavares said. "I think he sent a message with that one."
The goal triggered chants of "U-S-A!" from fans who felt Okposo should have made the U.S. team.
"Sometimes you get some tough bounces in life, you don't always achieve your goals," he said. "I felt like I left everything out there, and I don't have anything to hang my head about."
With 42 points, Okposo is tied for ninth in the NHL in scoring.
"I'm going to keep playing well and keep trying to get this team to where we need to be," he said.
The Islanders, who defeated the Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins on the road before Thursday, have won three in a row for the first time this season. At 14-21-7, they have a long way to go to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoff race, but for the first time in nearly two months there are glimmers of hope.
"It's two points for us, and it shows we can compete with top-level teams," Tavares said.
New York led 2-0 late in the second period on goals by Casey Cizikas and Thomas Vanek. But Chicago's Brent Seabrook scored a power-play goal with 96 seconds left in the second period and Ben Smith tied it 1:50 into the third.
Crawford, in his return after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury, made 31 saves and got the Blackhawks a point with a number of superb saves in the third period. He stopped Brock Nelson on a breakaway shortly after Smith's goal and robbed Tavares alone in front less than two minutes later. But Crawford's best save came with just under 2:00 remaining when he used his glove to rob Okposo on a wide-open one-timer from the slot.
"I thought we worked but we didn't work smart tonight," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "The positive out of the game was Corey's play; I thought he got us a point and made some real key stops late in the game.
"It was nice to get to overtime, but it didn't last long."
Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves for the Islanders and is 4-2-2 since returning from a month-long absence due to a lower-body injury.
"It's funny how things work; when the [defense] clears the rebounds, you look like a superstar, but when they don't it goes in," he said. "Tonight they did a [heck] of a job by helping out on the rebounds and winning battles around the net."
The Blackhawks (28-7-8) controlled play for most of the first period, outshot the Islanders 12-5, and had 21 shot attempts to 11 for New York. Nabokov was sharp, robbing Patrick Sharp from the slot and denying Toews from just to the right of the crease. But the Islanders got the only goal.
Cizikas, a fourth-line center, stripped Bryan Bickell in the neutral zone then outraced him for the puck, went in alone on Crawford and made a couple of dekes before tucking a shot inside the left post at 15:24 for his fifth goal of the season.
Getting the first goal was a change for the Islanders, who overcame 3-0 and 3-1 deficits to win their two previous games.
The Islanders made it 2-0 at 8:09 of the second period when Vanek lifted home the rebound of Andrew MacDonald’s shot for his 14th goal of the season. Vanek, acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in October, has at least a point in seven straight games. Okposo, who also had an assist, extended his point streak to eight games.
Crawford stopped the other 13 shots he faced as the Islanders carried the play through the first two-thirds of the period. But the Blackhawks, who entered with a League-leading 61 goals in the second period, began to control play again. Patrick Kane hit the crossbar near the 12-minute mark, and Nabokov made spectacular saves on Kane and Brandon Saad before Chicago scored by taking advantage of their first power play against the NHL’s worst penalty-killing unit.
With defenseman Matt Carkner off for tripping, Seabrook slid down into the left circle and one-timed a perfect right-to-left pass through the seam by Kris Versteeg past Nabokov for his fifth of the season at 18:36.
Smith tied the game less than two minutes into the third period after Sharp carried the puck to the net and tried to jam a shot through Nabokov’s pads. Nabokov made the save, but Smith lifted the rebound into the net for his fifth of the season.
The Islanders, who’ve lost six times this season after taking 2-0 leads, had the better of the chances for the final 15 minutes of regulation before Okposo’s OT winner.
"We had some good looks in the first two periods," Quenneville said, "but in the third period, it was [Crawford] that really saved us."
Material from team media was used in this report
|Casey Cizikas (5) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 NYI
|Thomas Vanek (14) ASST: Kyle Okposo (26), Andrew MacDonald (15)|
2 - 0 NYI
|PPG - Brent Seabrook (5) ASST: Kris Versteeg (15), Nick Leddy (14)|
2 - 1 NYI
|Ben Smith (5) ASST: Jonathan Toews (26), Patrick Sharp (20)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Kyle Okposo (16) ASST: John Tavares (29), Andrew MacDonald (16)|
3 - 2 NYI
|Power Play %||20.5%||15.9%|
|% on Road||22.9%||7.7%|
|% at Home||18.6%||21.6%|
|Matt Carkner Tripping against Nick Leddy|
|Patrick Sharp Cross checking against Thomas Hickey|
|Andrew Shaw Boarding against Brian Strait|