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Okposo scores four goals, Islanders defeat Penguins

by John Kreiser /

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Kyle Okposo put on a good show for his mentor.

Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier led the New York Islanders onto the ice for their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Okposo then led the Islanders to a come-from-behind 6-3 victory at Nassau Coliseum by scoring four goals, three of them in the third period.

Okposo got to know Trottier when the No. 1 center on the Islanders' dynasty teams of the early 1980s worked in player development during his early years with the team.

"[Trottier] has been a bit of a mentor of mine," said Okposo, who became the first Islanders player to score four goals in a game since Matt Moulson against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 3, 2011. "When I came into the League, my first rookie camp in 2006, I just kind of picked his brain. The way that he carried himself and still carries himself to this day is something that I really look up to and try to emulate."

Okposo scored the tying goal 6:42 into the third period, and then put the Islanders ahead when he finished a 3-on-2 rush by taking a perfect feed from Josh Bailey and beating Marc-Andre Fleury from the slot for his 12th goal of the season.

It became a four-goal night for Okposo when he jammed in a power-play rebound with 2:31 remaining to give the Islanders a 5-3 lead. Michael Grabner scored an empty-net goal with 1:13 to play.

"It was a special night for [Kyle]," said linemate John Tavares, who assisted on three of Okposo's goals. "The way he's been playing and having opportunities, it was only a matter of time that something like this was going to happen. I know he's been wanting to put the puck in the net a little more frequently, and it’s great the way he stepped up tonight."

The win delighted a sellout crowd of 16,170 that got louder as the Islanders caught and passed the Penguins. The final horn was greeted with the “Yes, yes, yes!” chant that accompanies each goal.

"The fans were doing it, and they were loud tonight," said Okposo, who said he hadn't scored four times in a game since high school. "It was a pretty cool thing for us. We love it. We get excited when we hear it after we score. Hopefully they'll be doing it all year for us."

The Islanders (30-13-1), who trailed 2-0 and 3-2, moved three points ahead of the Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division and one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Ryan Strome scored, and Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves for New York, which won its fourth in a row and outshot its opponent for the 15th consecutive game.

Sidney Crosby scored twice and set up a goal by David Perron for the Penguins (26-11-6), who have lost three of four to the Islanders this season. Fleury finished with 29 saves.

Crosby has 88 points (27 goals, 61 assists) in 49 regular-season games against the Islanders. He and teammate Evgeni Malkin, who had an assist, each have 50 points this season, two behind NHL leader Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We just didn't raise our level [of play] enough in the third period," Crosby said. "At the start of it, we did. But as the period went on, we didn't make smart plays. We hurt ourselves with some of the decisions we made.

"They're a good team. Give them chances like that and they're going to put them in."

The Penguins killed an early hooking penalty to Nick Spaling, then took the lead by scoring two power-play goals in a 90-second span midway through the first period following offensive-zone penalties by the Islanders.

With Grabner off for tripping, Crosby scored his 13th goal at 10:52 when he knocked in the rebound of Chris Kunitz's shot from the right circle. New York's Cal Clutterbuck was called for high-sticking at 11:51, and Perron's screened wrist shot from the top of the left circle beat Halak cleanly at 12:22 for his ninth goal and a 2-0 lead. It was Perron's fourth goal in five games since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 2.

The Islanders failed on a second power play, but scored 11 seconds after Scott Harrington's penalty expired on a superb play by Tavares. The Islanders captain deked his way past defenseman Simon Despres and slid a pass across the slot for Okposo, who swung and missed the puck with his stick but had it carom off his skate into the net at 16:51. The goal was confirmed after video review. The assist was Tavares’ 200th of his NHL career.

New York tied it at 12:31 of the second period when Strome finished off an excellent forechecking shift by picking up the carom of Frans Nielsen's blocked shot in the slot, spinning and whipping the puck past Fleury. It was Strome's eighth goal, first since Dec. 31.

The Penguins went back in front with 4.4 seconds remaining when Crosby took Malkin's pass across the slot and roofed it over Halak during a delayed penalty for his first two-goal game since Oct. 28, when he scored two against the New Jersey Devils.

Okposo tied the game again with 13:18 remaining in the third when he took a backhand swat at a rebound and roofed it over Fleury.

"He played a good game, got some good looks and made us pay," Crosby said.

Unlike the Penguins, the Islanders raised their level of play in the final 20 minutes.

"We came up big when we had to in the third period," coach Jack Capuano said. "We went back to puck-protecting and trying to grind that team down, and we had extensive [offensive] zone time in the third period."

The Islanders are 15-4-0 at the Coliseum after going 13-18-9 in at home last season. After a visit to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, New York plays 22 of its final 37 games here.

"You have to be a tough team to play against at home," Bailey said. "You can’t have teams come in here and have an easy game."

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