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Islanders rally, beat Sharks in shootout

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The New York Islanders appeared headed for their 11th straight loss Tuesday night, trailing the San Jose Sharks 2-1 with less than two minutes left to play at SAP Center.

Islanders forward Kyle Okposo had other ideas.

Okposo forced overtime by scoring with 1:37 left in regulation, then got the game-winner in the fourth round of a shootout Tuesday night to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory.

"We've been struggling," Okposo said. "It hasn't been fun. We've been playing well but not getting the results. To win like that tonight, it's big for us."

Thomas Vanek beat Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi in the first round of the shootout, but San Jose's Logan Couture countered with a goal against Kevin Poulin to open the second round. Okposo ended it with a goal in the fourth round, lifting a backhander over Niemi's pad.

The Islanders hadn't won anywhere since beating the Detroit Red Wings 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 16. They had lost 10 in a row on the road, all in regulation, since a 5-4 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 1.

"It feels good," Vanek said. "Even last night in Anaheim we lose [5-2] but for a lot of parts of the game I thought we were the better team, generating more chances and before we knew it we were down two again. It's nice that it goes the other way , too."

The Sharks (19-6-6), coming off a 3-1-0 road trip, lost their season-high fourth straight game and snapped their five-game winning streak at home.

"I thought we started the game very well," coach Todd McLellan said. "I thought we got a little loose in the second period and decided we wanted to trade chances, gave up some odd-number rushes. Gave up a goal in the first minute and the last minute of the third.

"What's disappointing for me is three of the last four games the top line on the other team has handled us. They've done all the damage. Our shutdown group, our guys that we rely on in that situation are getting beat right now along with the goaltender," he said, referring to the line of Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. "That has to improve."

Marleau and Pavelski scored second-period goals for the Sharks, while Vanek and Okposo scored in the third period for the Islanders, who won in San Jose for the first time since Feb. 19, 2003.

Poulin, who hurt his left leg making a save in the first round of the shootout but stayed in the game, made 46 saves through 65 minutes. Niemi stopped 26 shots.

"This was a step in the right direction," Poulin said. "They came out hard in the first period. They love to shoot and put the puck on the net. We regrouped after the first period and played the final 40 minutes the way we wanted."

Both teams had good chances to end it in overtime. Pavelski came close to scoring on a wraparound with 85 seconds left. Seconds later, the Islanders' Brock Nelson ripped a rebound from the right circle, but Niemi made a glove save.

After a scoreless first period, the Sharks built a 2-0 lead in the second as Marleau scored on the power play and Pavelski at even strength.

But Vanek cut the deficit in half 51 seconds into the third period, hammering home a rebound from the crease. John Tavares ignited the scoring play with a high-speed rush around Ryan Braun and took a shot that Niemi somehow stopped, but the puck squirted away. Okposo and Vanek both tried to jam the puck over the goal line; Vanek finally succeeded, scoring his 10th goal of the season.

"I think it gave them a little shot in the arm," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said of Vanek's goal. "It made them believe in themselves a little bit."

The Islanders pulled even on Okposo's goal. With Poulin on the bench for an extra attacker, Tavares won a left-circle faceoff with Pavelski and Okposo rifled a shot from above the left circle through a screen by Vanek that beat Niemi on his stick side.

"It was a good faceoff win by Johnny, and I wanted to go over to [Andrew MacDonald] for a one-timer but their guy was cheating out," Okposo said. "I just had a lane and tried to get on net and it had eyes."

Marleau gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 5:26 of the second, 10 seconds after Islanders defenseman Matt Carkner was penalized for roughing Tomas Hertl. Marleau ripped a rebound from the left circle past Poulin for his 14th goal of the season. Dan Boyle and Couture got the assists.

The Sharks came into the game 0-for-9 in their past three games and 3-for-35 in their past 10 on the power play. They went 0-for-3 in the first period before Marleau delivered.

The Islanders nearly pulled even midway through the period on their only power play, but Vanek's shot from close range clanked off the right post and Tavares couldn't make solid contact with the bouncing puck in front of the net.

Pavelski increased San Jose's lead to 2-0 at 15:24, wristing a shot from the left circle past Poulin. Pavelski made a cross-ice pass to Boyle, who ripped a shot that Poulin stopped but couldn't control. The rebound went straight to Pavelski, who scored his 10th goal of the season. Boyle earned his second assist of the night.

The Sharks outshot the Islanders 18-3 and dominated the puck in the first period, but at the end of 20 minutes the game was still scoreless.

Poulin, who was on the bench Monday night during a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, stopped every shot that came his way in the first, making a handful of spectacular saves. Late in the first, Marleau ripped a shot from close range, but Poulin made a sprawling save with his right pad.

The Sharks went 0-for-3 on the power play during the first period against the NHL's bottom-ranked penalty kill. Midway through the period, San Jose had back-to-back power plays after Eric Boulton and Travis Hamonic went to the box for delay of game. San Jose generated just three shots on goal during that four-minute span.

"Kevin made some big saves when he had to," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Penalty kill came up big. And to me, special teams is always a turning point in the game and that definitely was it tonight for us."

Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov missed the game against his former team with a groin injury he suffered on Nov. 16 against Detroit. But with just under 14 minutes left in the first period, Sharks fans gave him a long standing ovation when his image appeared on the big screen above center ice, chanting, "Nabby! Nabby! Nabby!"

Nabokov, standing in the tunnel that leads to the opposing team's dressing room, waved to the crowd, acknowledging the ovation.

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