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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Okposo Breaks Slump, Trounces Rangers

Islanders 3: Rangers 2 (OT)

Considering the 2-0 lead the Islanders had going into the third period of the game last night against the Rangers, you would think that the win would have been an easy one. How many times I've typed that sentence regarding an Isles game, I've lost count of. But this is our lot in life when we're fans of easily one of the most topsy-turvy teams in the league.

At any rate, the Rangers turned on in the third and scored two goals to pull themselves even with their cross-town rivals, but it was recently-struggling right wing Kyle Okposo who finally broke his slump and had a hand in each of the Isles' goals, including his own game-winner in OT.

Frans Nielsen struck first for the Islanders, as Josh Bailey recovered nicely from a missed breakaway opportunity and passed Okposo the puck. Nielsen went to the net and received a pretty behind-the-back pass from Kyle, shot, and got past Lundqvist for the tally. That was perhaps the only real highlight in a dull first period that only saw five shots for each team.

The second period commenced, and at 14:21 the penalty kill for the Isles- which had struggled as of late- woke up and not only killed the penalty, but scored a shorthanded goal. Once again, Okposo got the assist with a play in which he escaped a hit from one Ranger (Michael Del Zotto), stayed balanced on one skate, kept going and passed to a streaking Blake Comeau while absorbing another hit. Comeau finished the play and scored his first career shorthanded goal. That great play compensated for the glaring lack of cohesion on the power play.

In the third period, however, the Isles started to get a bit sloppy, losing a good amount of faceoffs and allowing the Rangers to get more time in their zone. It was here that Dwayne Roloson was sharp, saving everything until 6:07 of the third, where Brandon Dubinsky was able to get to the front of the net and beat his left pad as Comeau was entering the play from the penalty box. Then, late in the third, a bad too many men call on the Isles led to the second goal being scored by Dubinsky once more. Penalties definitely hurt the Isles in this period, and they allowed the Rangers (and their boisterous home crowd) back into the game in a huge way.

However, Okposo wasn't done yet. There was a focus to his game that was hugely visible, almost palpable, and it showed in his two assists and constant presence whenever he was on the ice. He nearly scored at least once in regulation, and definitely did score in overtime for the Isles- finally!- after going almost 20 games without a goal. He received a pass from Frans Nielsen along the Rangers' blue line and fired a shot that deflected off of defenseman Marc Staal, then the post and past Lundqvist. I couldn't imagine a guy who deserves it more, after working so hard and being frustrated so constantly by missed shots, posts and great saves by opposing goalies. Now, though, with some hard work (and a bit of luck), it all paid off. He got the first star of the game for an overall excellent performance.

The Isles have no time to relish this win, however, as they face off against the Flyers this evening at 5 p.m. back at the Coliseum. No matter where the Flyers are in the standings, somehow they always manage to find their legs and the win against the Isles, so our boys will have to stay focused and not get suckered into bad situations. No telling who will be in net- I imagine Rollie might get the night off (he's started three straight already), but who knows.


Notes: Timmy's back! Tim Jackman returned to the lineup after being sidelined with a hip injury, and Jon Sim was moved up to the third line to make room for him on the fourth line, while Jesse Joensuu returned to Bridgeport... the Isles are now 3-1-0 against the Rangers this season... Roloson made 36 saves, as the Rangers outshot the Isles 38-22.

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