For the second straight night the New York Islanders mounted a third period comeback, securing an all-important point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Kyle Okposo scored a power-play goal with 5:25 to play in the third, forcing overtime and banking a key point in the Islanders’ push for a playoff spot and home-ice advantage. Unlike Monday night against Florida, the Islanders weren’t able to steal the second points as Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang scored the lone goal of a three-round shootout.
“I’m real proud of the guys and the effort they put forth tonight,” head coach Jack Capuano said. “You come into this building against a really high-quality team on a back-to-back with long travel and come out with a point.”
Okposo provided the offense, but goaltender JF Berube was the Islanders’ backbone Tuesday, making 33 saves, including seven in overtime. The rookie goaltender – making his third start of the season and first since Feb. 2 – wasn’t fazed by the high stakes or staring down the likes of Sidney Crosby and company.
“I just tried to play as simple as I could, put my body in front of the puck, be square and be on top of the paint,” Berube said. “Just trying to focus on the little details and I knew I’d get my rhythm as the game went on.”
If the Islanders were worried about the long layoff, Berube put those concerns to bed early, stopping Eric Fehr on a shorthanded one-timer and covering the rebound. In the second period Berube flashed the glove on Crosby from the left dot and halted a few key Pittsburgh surges, allowing the Islanders a chance to catch their collective breath.
“Our goaltender was great tonight,” Capuano said of Berube. “He’s a guy who’ really focused and dialed in. He came up big for us when he had to and that’s what you ask your goaltender to do.”
Those moments paled in comparison to his work in overtime. Berube made a handful of game-saving stops in OT including a skate save on Matt Cullen on a two-on-one and a blocker save on Kris Letang in the slot. In the shootout, the 26-year-old made another glove save on Crosby and closed the five-hole on Phil Kessel. Letang converted on a series of fakes and ultimately finished with a high backhand.
Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares were all stopped by Fleury in the skills competition.
Chris Kunitz’s deflection was the only puck to elude Berube in regulation, as the Penguins opened up a 1-0 lead at 15:51.
It appeared as if it would hold up as the game winner, but for the second straight game, Okposo came through in the clutch. Okposo settled an Anders Lee rebound and flipped the puck over a sprawling Fleury, just in time before Letang crashed the net to bail out his goaltender.
With their 85th point of the season, the Islanders stayed three points ahead of the Penguins and tied the New York Rangers for second in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders currently hold the tiebreaker with the Rangers.
The Islanders three-game road trip continues on Thursday night in Nashville. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. eastern time.