-- Rob Schremp calls himself a huge baseball fan, and he looked like a dangerous left-handed hitter Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
Schremp showed uncanny coordination before using a baseball-type swing to score a second-period goal that helped the New York Islanders
open a three-game road trip with a 3-2 win over the Northwest Division-leading Colorado Avalanche
"That was Robbie at his finest," said Kyle Okposo
, who broke a 2-2 tie with 3:17 remaining in the third period to give the Islanders their fifth win in seven games (5-1-1) and pull them within one point of eighth-place Montreal for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
"The playoffs is our goal, to climb the ladder," Schremp said. "Every game is a steppingstone and we've got to get to that eighth spot. We have confidence in this group. We have a good core of guys and we work hard."
Okposo made the most of his opportunity by netting the decisive goal while leading a three-on-one rush after Avalanche defenseman Kyle Cumiskey
fell in his own end.
Okposo skated into the right circle, watched as Colorado defenseman Scott Hannan anticipated a pass, and fired the puck over goalie Craig Anderson's left shoulder.
"The defenseman was playing pass the whole way, so I just picked the corner," Okposo said. "I don't have too many (game-winners). It was a great effort by our whole team tonight."
The victory was just the second in 10 visits to Denver for the Islanders, their first since a 3-2 win on Nov. 19, 1999.
"It was a 3-on-1, so they had the odds in their favor," Anderson said of Okposo's goal. "We just had some bad luck with a guy losing an edge and creating a chance for them. I read the shot all the way. I got a piece of it with my jersey and it just kind of rolled over my shoulder and into the net. I think I played it right, he just got lucky."
Dwayne Roloson was strong in goal for the Islanders, making 13 of his 30 saves in the third period, including a couple of spectacular stops against Avalanche rookie center Matt Duchene
"It's frustrating," Duchene said. "Sometimes that happens when you run into a hot goalie."
Duchene, the third pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, had four shots on goal in 17:51 of ice time. Islanders rookie John Tavares
, the first overall selection, played 16:02 and didn't have a shot on goal.
The Avalanche tied the game 2-2 on Matt Hendricks' goal at 9:37 of the third period, but the goal of the evening belonged to Schremp.
Schremp's power-play goal at 17:48 of the second period gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead. He was standing about 15 feet to the left of Anderson when the Avalanche goalie made a save on Frans Nielsen
's slap shot from the slot. The rebound popped high in the air, and in one motion Schremp was able to knock the puck down with his glove and use a baseball-type swing to whack it out of the air and inside the near post.
The goal was originally waved off, but the call was reversed and the goal allowed to stand following video replay that showed Schremp hit the puck while his stick was below the crossbar.
"The puck was in the air, a defenseman was coming and I knew there was no time to put it on the ground, to put it on the ice and make a play," Schremp said. "So I just hit it with my hand and it was in the middle of my eyesight, so I just whacked at it."
Schremp started to celebrate, but he had to hold off while the play was reviewed.
"I didn't want to make a fool of myself," he said. "I was confident it was a goal. That was probably the most unique goal I've ever scored. I love baseball. I grew up playing and I still love the game. People may call me a hot dog, but if I didn't work on my hand-eye coordination, I would never have scored that goal."
Islanders coach Scott Gordon said he wasn't surprised by Schremp's ability to make such a play.
"He's a guy that has hands that are so quick … his hand-eye coordination," Gordon said.
Said Anderson: "He is a very gifted player, obviously. I just have to control my rebounds and be a little bit better with the point shots."
The Avalanche opened the scoring at 2:48 of the first period on a power-play goal by Chris Stewart, but the Islanders tied matters at 18:10 when Jon Sim converted the rebound of Schremp's shot.
The Islanders also received some encouraging news on the health front regarding goalie Rick DiPietro
, who has been plagued by knee injuries.
DiPietro dressed for the first time this season, serving as Roloson's backup while Martin Biron was scratched. Gordon said DiPietro, who hasn't played in an NHL game since Jan. 2, 2009, will start either Friday in Dallas or Saturday in Phoenix.
"At some point Rick is going to play on the trip," he said. "We'll see where he's at. But just to know that we have three guys is obviously a good thing for the organization."