Kyle Okposo scored the OT winner for the New York Islanders off a drop pass from Josh Bailey. The catch: Bailey was in alone on a clear breakaway.
“I knew we had a 2-on-0 from the far blue line,” Okposo said. “I was yelling at Bails to just take it. I wasn’t really ready for the drop, but just tried to get it to my backhand and stuff it in.”
Bailey offered his side of the story post-game saying he wanted to freeze Curtis McElhinney.
“We’ll just be happy with the end result on that one,” Bailey said. “It didn’t go the way we expected, I was just happy to see that one go in. I just didn’t want to take it on an end-to-end breakaway knowing Okposo was there. Just happy he got a piece of it. The goalie didn’t really move.”
Okposo’s second goal gave the Islanders a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and extended the Islanders’ point streak to nine games (7-0-2). Okposo finished the game with three points (2G, 1A) – his 23rd, 24th and 25th of the season – overtaking John Tavares for the Islanders’ scoring lead.
“It was a good win for our team,” Okposo said. “We got a little lucky with the last play, we have to come out tomorrow night and have a better effort.”
The Islanders and Blue Jackets played a back-and-forth affair Saturday, as the Isles led 1-0 and 2-1 before Columbus battled back to tie it in the third period. The Blue Jackets nearly took a 3-2 lead with 47.7 seconds to play in the third, but Boone Jenner’s would-be goal was called back on a distinct kicking motion. The Islanders kept their composure, winning the game 2:16 into overtime – their fifth straight game past 60 minutes.
“The more you get in those situations and the more you get the result you’re looking for, the more confidence you get,” Bailey said. “It’s only natural to get a little more comfortable the more you are in those situations. We have a pretty veteran group that knows how to be in it at those times and it’s shown as of late and hopefully can show for the rest of the season.”
Okposo opened the scoring in the first period, taking advantage of Gregory Campbell’s turnover, before beating McElhinny up high at 15:21. The Islanders were outshot 9-4 in the opening frame, but led 1-0.
The Blue Jackets responded early in the second period, as Jenner’s pass deflected off Brandon Saad’s skate past Jaroslav Halak at 5:08.
Frans Nielsen restored the Islanders’ lead two minutes later, swatting a rebound past McElhinney and a diving David Savard. Nielsen’s 12th of the season tied Tavares for the team lead.
After Nielsen’s go-ahead goal, the ice tilted in Columbus’ favor, but Jaroslav Halak (28 saves) made key stops to preserve the Islanders’ lead. Halak lunged out with his right pad to rob Jackets’ defenseman Jack Johnson and followed up with a similar save on Saad.
“It was one of those games that could have gone either way,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought Jaro made a huge save there obviously in the second period on a 3-on-2.”
The pesky Blue Jackets tied the score in the third, despite a 5-1 shot advantage for the Islanders to start the period. Columbus made the most of their first shot, as Cam Atkinson beat Halak with a shot through traffic at 8:20.
It was in the last minute that the Islanders’ point streak was in serious jeopardy. Jenner crashed the net hard and kicked a rebound past a sprawling Halak with 47.7 seconds to play. After a lengthy review process, the officials overturned the call, sending the game to OT.
With the win, the Islanders improved to 6-0-2 against the Metropolitan Division this season. They’ll put that streak on the line Sunday evening when they host another division rival – the New Jersey Devils – at Barclays Center on Jewish Heritage Night. Puck drop is at 5 p.m. Buy Tickets Here.
NOTES: Ryan Strome left the game after the second period and did not return… Eric Boulton made his season debut skating with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas, as Cal Clutterbuck (upper body – day-to-day) missed Saturday’s game.