Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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Islanders rally, win in shootout

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[January 21, 2014]  UNIONDALE, N.Y.  Jack Capuano, the normally stoic head coach of the New York Islanders, was captured by television cameras smiling before the shootout Monday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Capuano said the grin was accidental and that he was just asking to see a copy of the Islanders' participants in the shootout. But neither Capuano nor the rest of the Islanders could be blamed for grinning as the shootout began and for believing they had the Flyers right where they wanted them.

Left winger Kyle Okposo, who forced overtime by scoring with 2:58 left in regulation, scored on the Islanders' fourth shot of the shootout to cap yet another comeback win by New York, which edged the Flyers 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 16,048 at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are 11-5-0 in their last 16 games, a stretch in which they have recorded nine comeback wins and have gone 4-0-0 in overtime. New York has come back from a multi-goal deficit in five of those victories  including Monday's, when the Islanders trailed 3-1 after two periods.

"We've done it a few times now," said Islanders center John Tavares, who scored in the second period and had one of New York's three goals in the shootout. "I just like how we kept playing, didn't let too much negativity creep in and didn't hang our heads and feel sorry for ourselves."

The hot stretch has turned the Islanders (20-24-7) into an unlikely playoff contender. The Islanders, who blew a lead 11 times in starting out 9-19-7, are five points behind Columbus, Detroit and Washington in the race for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I like the success we have when we get better as the game goes on," Tavares said. "The points mean a lot and it's just having that execution for 60 minutes. And when things don't go well, it's going right back (to) that mindset of executing and doing the things we need to do to be successful."

The Islanders' fortunes looked bleak after a scoreless first period, when right winger Michael Grabner failed to score on a pair of breakaway opportunities, and after they fell behind 3-1 in a second period in which they outshot the Flyers 16-9.

But New York killed an Okposo penalty early in the third and center Brock Nelson's goal 8:16 into the period pulled the Islanders within one.

The Islanders outshot the Flyers 17-3 in the third and finally tied the game on a power-play goal by Okposo, who initially whiffed on a pass from center Frans Nielsen before he recovered and tucked the puck into the left corner of the net.

"We played a pretty good game, even when we were down," Capuano said. "We just had to stay the course. After the second (we said) if we can get 40 shots in the game, or 40-plus, we'll give ourselves a chance to win. And our guys battled. We were relentless."

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Okposo's goal in the shootout and a subsequent save by Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson on a shot by Flyers center Sean Couturier capped a wild and physical game. There were three fights, 15 penalties, 42 penalty minutes and seemingly as many sticks strewn across the ice during live play. The Islanders' win also prevented the Flyers from sweeping the season series for the third time in the last five years.

"It's always nice to beat Philly," said Okposo, who was involved in a first-period fight with Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn. "They've had a lot of success against us since I've been here. Anytime you beat those guys, it's a pretty good feeling."

Nilsson made 29 saves in earning his first career win in the shootout.

For the Flyers, right winger Matt Read continued to thrive against the Islanders as he scored twice in the second period. Read, who later extended the shootout by beating Nilsson, had six goals in four games this season against the Islanders and 10 goals in 14 career games, his most against any opponent.

Right winger Wayne Simmonds also scored in the second for the Flyers (25-19-6), who have lost two of their last three.

Emery remained unbeaten in regulation against the Islanders (8-0-2) by making 40 saves.

"We got gassed (in the third period)," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I didn't think we made very good plays trying to come out of our end."

NOTES: The Islanders have played a matinee home game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in each of the last eight NHL seasons. ... Philadelphia swept the season series from the Islanders just three times in the 32 seasons prior to the 2004-05 lockout, including just once between 1972-73  the Islanders' inaugural campaign  and 1998-99. ... The consecutive games between the Islanders and Flyers marked the first time the two teams met in back-to-back contests since Nov. 26-29, 2005, when the Flyers won in Philadelphia before the Islanders won at Nassau Coliseum. ... The Islanders scratched D Travis Hamonic, D Radek Martinek and C Peter Regin. Hamonic has missed the last four games with concussion symptoms. ... Islanders D Lubomir Visnovsky practiced Sunday for the first time since suffering a concussion onOct. 19. ... The Flyers had a trio of healthy scratches: D Hal Gill, D Erik Gustafsson and C Chris Vandevelde. ... D Marc-Andre Bourdon, who has not played since suffering the third concussion of his career on Nov. 30, 2012, practiced with the Flyers on Sunday.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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