Has the clang of the inside of the post ever sounded so good as when Kyle Okposo broke an 18-game goalless drought to score an OT winner in Madison Square Garden, capping a night in which he created all three Islanders goals?
Many of us have said he's been playing quite well throughout this "slump." Tonight was a perfect example. His fight-through-two-comical-Rangers-checks assist on Blake Comeau's shorthanded goal may well have been the assist of the season [video after the jump]. If not the prettiest, it was the hardest earned. Comeau converted not so much because he wanted a goal, but because it is simply Natural Law that you finish the deal after your teammate makes an otherworldly effort like that.
So that makes the Isles 3-1 against the Short Island Smurfs this year -- or if we're being honest about the points exchanged in the NHL's "The People Demand a Winner" three-point intradivisional games: 2-1-1-0 (W-OTW-L-OTL). Strangely, this one was the first to really feel like an Islanders-Rangers game (maybe the first one did a little), where both teams brought intensity at the same time, and the crowd fed off that.
The worst part was the blown third-period, two-goal lead. But I really felt the tying goal wasn't as bad (or any worse) as other plays where Dwayne Roloson bailed them out. Once again, as the Rangers of the past few years know all too well: Good goaltending can do that for you, and Roloson certainly measured up in a game where his team was outshot 38-22 overall, 15-5 in the third.
But it's ironic and fitting, after so many losses where the Islanders outhustled a team in the early-going, that tonight's first goal went to the Islanders after they'd been outworked for the first 10 minutes. That's hockey for you; she is a fickle, unfair beast.
The Kyle Okposo 'Two Checks Won't Cut It' Assist of the Season
Random This and That
Defense: As Chickendirt noted in the game thread, the Islanders played more passively in the second half of this game to try close out the win. Of course, in the end they still gave up the two goals the Rangers needed to make this a bonus-point game. We'll call that life in the "new NHL:" There are no simple answers for an underskilled team.
Andy Sutton and Jack Hillen continue to draw the tough defensive assignments, including the close-and-late situation. That assignment is reflected in their negative Corsi figures for the game, where they once again share company with Nate Thompson. But I don't think that pairing was overwhelmed. I did question Sutton's stepping up to check a Rangers defenseman at center ice during the shift on which the tying goal was scored; I also really enjoyed the sound of him laying that Ranger out (Michal Rozsival), so I am guilty of that have-and-eat cake thing queens always talk about.
Special Teams: The powerplay remains anemic. Zero freaking shots on goal in three opportunities. But the Rangers only managed two of their own -- somehow all of this appropriate for two teams that each took too many men on the ice penalties ... again.
Cheers to Comeau for finishing and Okposo for the tremendous work to create that huge shorthanded goal. In an ideal world, players like Okposo are your penalty killers because your best players are simply best at creating havoc like that. As an American, completely independent of my Islanders fanboyism, I would love to see Okposo on the Olympic team because he can do that and anything else you ask of him. Oh, and he loves to play this game, too.
Did I mention that Okposo has played well during this ten-assist "slump"? He of course agrees, and so does his coach:
"That's one thing you don't have to worry about Kyle, is getting away from what gives him success," Gordon said. "His work ethic is second to none on our team. Saying that, he's been making some plays that have given other players opportunities to score goals."
Notes of General Gnat-Like Nuisance
In the Chronicles of Dwayne Roloson vs. Sean Avery, the 40-year-old goalie takes round two from the emotional adolescent. At least the me-first weasel found someone his own, um, size to fight. That'll teach 'em not to check you, yeah!
From the Ministry of Reflecting on Obvious Preview Statements
"Once again, this one should down to how both teams start after two days off, as well as how the struggling Islanders special teams perform against the Rangers' far superior counterparts (we're talking 22.1% vs. 16.1%; 85.4% vs. 75%). Getting shots on Lundqvist from better positions than last time is key. Getting continued heroic work from (presumably)is also a must.
Hey, three out of four Captains of the Obvious ain't bad.
No Rest for the Victors: Flyers Incoming
Don't forget the Flyers game is at 5:05 (ooh! five extra minutes!) Sunday at the Coliseum. I am in awe of Roloson's great play; I also generally oppose throwing non-prime goalies out there on back-to-back nights. Roloson's last back-to-back (at home to the Rangers) did not dissuade me from this stance. I want Martin Biron in goal against his former, struggling team -- who tied the Hurricanes last night and took home the shootout bonus point. How about you?