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Nielsen scores two, Islanders defeat Flyers in SO

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Kyle Okposo scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Islanders a 4-3 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday.

Okposo, the Islanders' second shooter, skated in, deked Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth to the ice, dragged the puck around him and lifted it over Neuvirth's blocker.

Frans Nielsen scored two goals, Brock Nelson had a goal, and Nick Leddy had two assists for the Islanders (16-8-5). Goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 43 saves through 65 minutes, and then stopped Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Evgeny Medvedev in the shootout.

Giroux had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (11-11-6), who rallied from a two-goal second-period deficit to get the game to overtime. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White also scored, and Neuvirth made 16 saves through overtime in relief of starter Steve Mason. Neuvirth also made a save on Nielsen in the shootout.

New York is 3-2 in the shootout, and Philadelphia is 1-2.

The Islanders have gone eight straight games without a regulation loss (6-0-2), but the feeling in the winning locker room wasn't exactly joyous.

"That obviously wasn't our best," Okposo said. "We have to do better than that to win every night in this league. We know that. ... At this point, you just take the two points."

The Islanders started well, taking a 3-1 lead 1:14 into the second period on Nielsen's 11th of the season.

At that point, the Flyers pulled Mason, who allowed three goals on 10 shots. The change sparked Philadelphia, which got White's goal at 4:09 of the second and Giroux's tying goal at 2:02 of the third.

The Flyers nearly tied the game at 13:58 of the second on a power-play goal by Simmonds, but after video review, the call on the ice was reversed when it was determined Simmonds kicked the puck into the net.

After the goalie change, the Flyers outshot the Islanders 28-16.

"Obviously, that [goalie change] did help a lot," Simmonds said. "[Neuvirth] came in and he made some huge saves. That one on the breakaway that [Casey] Cizikas had [at 3:54 of the third period], that was a monster save. We kept playing well after that. After we switched and [Neuvirth] came in, I thought it was an all-around good game."

The Islanders felt the shift in momentum as well.

"In the second period, I just thought they really took the game over and we weren't able to get out of our own zone and execute," Okposo said. "I thought our execution wasn't great tonight and they were on top of us, and for whatever reason, it just wasn't our best game."

Neuvirth's best saves came in the third after Giroux's shot from above the right circle bounced in off Leddy to tie the game 3-3. Besides the breakaway stop on Cizikas, he made a flashy glove save on an Okposo shot from the right circle with 7:04 left after a giveaway by Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere.

Halak also was outstanding in preserving the tie. His best saves came with 9:17 left in the third when he stopped a Michael Del Zotto shot from the left side, then sprawled to make a low save on Chris VandeVelde and from a sitting position gloved a Bellemare shot.

"We expect our players to perform at a high level," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Unfortunately, tonight probably 50 percent of our guys didn't, and [Halak] did."

New York played the third period without forward Cal Clutterbuck because of an upper-body injury. Capuano said he would be re-evaluated Wednesday.

Losing a player isn't ideal, but the shortened bench seemed to help the Islanders.

"It's almost nice that you don't know who you're going with and you just jump over the boards and go play," Okposo said. "I thought we actually started to play better when he shuffled the lines and we stopped thinking a little bit and just went out there and played hockey. I thought that's when we played some of our best hockey. We got some chances to score later in the third period."

The Islanders got the start they were looking for, with Nielsen's low shot squeezing through Mason's pads 55 seconds into the game.

Bellemare tied it with a shorthanded goal off a 2-on-0 rush with Giroux at 9:12 of the first. But during the same Islanders power play, Nelson tipped a Leddy one-timer past Mason at 10:43 of the first to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.

The Islanders looked to be in control when Nielsen scored his second goal of the night with a shot between Del Zotto's skates that Mason couldn't find to make it 3-1.

"We had the lead and I'm sure if we scored one more goal -- it would have been 4-1 -- would have been a different game," Halak said. "They scored right away, 3-2. One goal was called back, lucky for us. We all knew we needed to play better, especially after the second period."

The Flyers felt they carried the play for most of the final two periods and overtime. They left feeling OK despite the final score.

"We played a hell of a game," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "We deserved better. Guys played hard. ... Guys competed and battled hard. Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with the second point."


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