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Okposo Found His Game

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Forward Kyle Okposo had his breakout game for this season, scoring two goals and an assist in the Islanders 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. The performance was long overdue.

“The goals are product of how I played I think,” Okposo said. “I finally got back to how I play my game. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t pull it out in the end.”

Kyle Okposo celebrates his first goal of the 2011-2012 season with teammates Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on November 23, 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Head Coach Jack Capuano, while scratching Okposo in three straight games (Nov. 15, 17 & 19), had faith that the winger would find his game.

“I thought Kyle really responded tonight and clearly was one of the better players on the ice,” Capauno said. “It was good to see that. I thought he played exceptionally well.”

Wednesday night, Okposo was not only the best Islanders player on the ice, he regained his confidence after scoring his first goal of the season. Just 19 seconds after the Flyers Andrej Meszaros scored to take a 1-0 lead 18 seconds off the opening faceoff, through the slot, Okposo found the back of the net going five-hole on Ilya Bryzgalov off a pass from linemate Michael Grabner in the trapezoid.

“It was big for my confidence,” Okposo said. “It was definitely nice to get that one.”

He continued, “I’m going to try and play like that every night, work hard every night. Goals are just a byproduct of how I played.”

That confidence was more than apparent. All night long he made smooth passes, rushed 200 feet for breakaways and created multiple offensive scoring chances for himself and his linemates, getting on the board with two shots, two attempts blocked and two won faceoffs.

Okposo scored his second of the night on the power play off a tic-tac-toe rush up ice at 10:26. Grabner made a cross-ice pass to Josh Bailey who found Okposo rushing to the paint for the one timer.

“I felt good tonight and that’s the way that I know how to play,” Okposo said. “I don’t what it was from the beginning of the year, but I wasn’t doing it and just something clicked mentally and I’m just happy to be back.”

Ilya Bryzgalov watches the puck fly into the net for a goal by Kyle Okposo (not pictured) at Nassau Coliseum on November 23, 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Okposo and Grabner would complete their three-point night as Grabner scored to bring the Islanders ahead 3-1 at 18:29 of the first. Grabner’s goal came as he released a one-timer through the high slot after Okposo found him in the empty space.

“We played good last year together and we had a lot of struggles at the beginning of the year,” Grabner said. “Today was a pretty good game for our line. We created a lot of chances, especially early on. We just have to build on that.”

Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t what everyone was hoping for. The Flyers came back to score a goal in each of the next two periods (Scott Hartnell at 5:24 in the second and Danny Briere at 14:18 in the third), leveling the score and bringing on the overtime period. Despite the loss, the effort wasn’t without chances.

The Islanders drew a hooking penalty on Hartnell and earned a 4-on-3 advantage 21 seconds into the extra session and Capuano put the Grabner-Nielsen-Okposo line onto the ice for the second minute as they created some magical chances that left fans gasping for air. Briere would score the winning goal at 2:34.

“We had some opportunities on the power play late,” Capuano said. “I thought they were real aggressive. They worked hard on the 4-on-3, they really came hard on that penalty kill and we couldn’t close it out.”
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