Trailing in the third period of a crucial game against a Metropolitan Division opponent, Kyle Okposo showed why he is emerging as one of the New York Islanders' most prominent leaders both on and off the ice.
Okposo tied the game with 2:58 remaining in regulation and then scored in the fourth round of the shootout to give the New York Islanders a 4-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday at Nassau Coliseum.
"He's a leader of our team. He's going to do what it takes to win," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Okposo. "You've got to play hard and you have to play physical. I thought he did that tonight, and I thought guys rallied around him."
John Tavares and Brock Nelson also scored for the Islanders, and Anders Nilsson made 26 saves in his first game in more than a month. Tavares and Frans Nielsen also scored in the shootout.
Matt Read scored twice and Wayne Simmonds once for Philadelphia, and Ray Emery stopped a season-high 40 shots. Read and Claude Giroux beat Nilsson in the tiebreaker before the Swedish goaltender stopped Sean Couturier to clinch the win.
Trailing 3-1 after 40 minutes, New York used a dominant third period in which it outshot the Flyers 17-3 and scored twice to send the game to overtime.
Brock Nelson cut Philadelphia's lead to 3-2 when he took Josh Bailey's cross-crease pass in front of the net to beat Emery for his eighth goal at 8:16, six seconds after Adam Hall finished serving a hooking penalty.
Okposo tied the game on the power play, 68 seconds after Steve Downie was called for holding. Nielsen found Okposo at the side of the Philadelphia net, where the puck bounced off his skate and in for his 20th goal. Officials reviewed the goal to see if the Islanders right wing intentionally kicked the puck into the net, but the goal was upheld, completing New York's comeback and forcing overtime.
"We gave some up in the second period, but I thought we controlled the game for the most part," Okposo said. "It was a bit of a seesaw battle, but we came out in the third and I thought we played hard and took it to them and were able to find a way."
The rally came after an aggressive run by the Flyers in the latter half of the second period that allowed them to take a commanding 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
With the game tied 1-1 in the second, Simmonds went to work in front of the net to give Philadelphia the lead. Scott Hartnell's initial shot was stopped by a sprawling Nilsson, but Simmonds found a loose puck in the crease and slid it just below the Islanders goalie for his 17th goal at 11:30. The goal extended Simmonds' point streak to four games, during which he has seven points.
"I think overall our offensive production has gone up as a team," Simmonds said. "I think I'm a benefactor of that, playing with [Brayden Schenn] and [Hartnell]. We know how to use each other, and we're doing really well."
Vincent Lecavalier was whistled for holding 54 seconds after Simmonds' goal, but the Islanders could not answer. Emery was able to stick out his left pad to make two quick stops on Tavares from in close with 5:50 left in the second. That was just one of numerous sequences in which Emery held the Islanders at bay.
"Ray played great for us. He stood on his head and made a lot of big saves," Simmonds said. "We got a point, we don't come out of it with nothing. So you can't say it's completely wasted."
Read got his second of the game with 1:44 remaining in the middle period. Speeding down the left wing, Read switched to his forehand before lifting a quick shot over Nilsson's right shoulder for his 13th goal, six of which have come against the Islanders.
Read opened the scoring while the Flyers were shorthanded early in the second. With Nicklas Grossmann off for hooking, he sprinted down the left side before speeding toward the Islanders net and lifting a backhand to the top right corner over Nilsson's shoulder.
Nilsson admitted he should have stopped both of Read's goals.
"Especially the third (Flyers) goal, I got caught deep and I went down a little early. I need to cover the short side. That's a goal that shouldn't go in," said Nilsson, who saw his first NHL action since Dec. 9. "Even the first goal, I think I could have had that too. It's good to play when you feel you have your teammates sticking up for you. Even though you let in two bad goals, you come back and tie up the game and win the game."
Tavares tied the game at 1-1 when he found a loose puck on the doorstep with 10:34 left in the second. With Hartnell off for tripping, Tavares fed Thomas Vanek in the slot. Vanek couldn't get off a shot, but the puck slid toward the Flyers crease, where the Islanders captain pounced to beat Emery in close for his 23rd of the season.
The Flyers responded to Tavares' equalizer with two unanswered goals. But New York stuck to their aggressive game plan in the third and found a way to get two big points and their ninth win in 12 games (9-3-0).
"Even when we were down, we talked about how we had our chances. I thought Emery was making good saves. We just had to stay the course," Capuano said. "We talked after the second, if we could get 40 shots in this game, we'd give ourselves a chance to win. Our guys battled."
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