[34-37-11]
5
4
[43-27-12]
12/29/2013
FINAL
1 2 3 T
New York Islanders NYI 0 2 3 5
31 SHOTS 37
21 FACEOFFS 41
15 HITS 11
13 PIM 11
0/3 PP 0/4
2 GIVEAWAYS 1
4 TAKEAWAYS 7
16 BLOCKED SHOTS 10
         

Okposo, Islanders rally from 3-0 hole to beat Wild

Monday, 12.30.2013 / 12:46 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The New York Islanders rallied from a 3-0 second-period deficit to beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday night, extending the Wild losing streak to five games in disheartening fashion.

New York, which has won three of five games, scored twice in the second period and three times in the third to complete the comeback, its first from a 3-0 deficit in nearly 20 years.

St. Paul native Kyle Okposo scored twice in the third, including the game-winner at 14:12.

"It was a good one to leave the hometown fans with," Okposo said. "I heard about five or six cheers in the audience when I scored, but it's nice to come home and get a win like that."

Once one of the NHL's best teams, Minnesota is quickly falling out of the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference. The Wild may have hit rock bottom Sunday night in blowing the 3-0 lead.

"It was there for us. That's the disturbing part. It's hard to find the words for this because this is beyond disturbing right now," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We have to find a way to win that game. You're up 3-0 and you're at home. There's no excuses. We just have to get it done. It's as simple as that. Don't ask me for the words because I've been thinking about it since the game ended and I can't find a word to describe the feeling right now."

Yeo wasn't alone.

Minnesota's dressing room didn't have many answers for their stunning collapse. Playing at home for the first time in nearly two weeks, the Wild were primed to snap their losing skid against an Islanders team playing the second half of back-to-back games. They entered the game 14-3-2 at Xcel Energy Center this season.

"Of course it's tough. We're up 3-0 at home, and … I really don't know," said Wild captain Mikko Koivu. "There's no explanation. That just can't happen."

The Islanders began their comeback on a goal by captain John Tavares, who missed New York's game Saturday against the New Jersey Devils with a lower-body injury. Thomas Vanek wheeled around the Wild net and flipped the puck in front. It deflected off Wild defenders into the top of the crease, where Tavares tapped it in for his 14th of the season.

"We had probably 12 Grade A chances against New Jersey and only got a goal, so it's important when you have your captain back, not only for his play but for the room as well," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "There's a difference in our hockey team when he's in the lineup."

Minnesota killed off a holding penalty against Mikael Granlund at 15:49, but could not clear the puck. After several blocked shots and failed clearing attempts, the puck came free at the point to Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, who wristed a shot toward the net that was deflected by former Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck and past Wild goalie Josh Harding.

Most agreed Clutterbuck's goal, his fifth, was the turning point.

"When we made it 3-2 there, having the shift that those guys had, we knew that we could go after them and continue to go after them in the third," Okposo said. "We came out and I thought we did a good job dictating the play."

"They scored the second goal, and we stopped playing," Yeo said. "Believe me, it's our job to find explanations, but holy cow, that's a tough one to find an explanation for."

Hickey tied the game at 3-3 on a pretty redirection in the slot at 6:30 of the third. Okposo, who played at the University of Minnesota, gave New York its first lead almost six minutes later, ripping a slap shot over Harding's glove for his 13th of the season.

"At the end of the second period, we had some really good zone time, and you could just feel it in the building that the tide was turning and we were coming and we were going to get a good chance to win it," Hickey said.

Minnesota tied the game at 4-4 at 13:45 when Justin Fontaine hammered away at a rebound in the crease, but Okposo scored the game-winner 26 seconds after that, unleashing a wrist shot from the top of the crease on a rebound chance of his own.

Minnesota got a goal from Ryan Suter, his first of the year, 3:22 into the game to grab an early 1-0 lead.

Jonas Brodin's seventh goal of the year 39 seconds into the second period came a little more than two minutes before Nino Niederreiter, acquired in the offseason in the trade that sent Clutterbuck to the Islanders, made it 3-0 on a wrist shot from the slot. Niederreiter also had an assist on Brodin's goal.

Brodin's seven goals are tied for fifth most among NHL defensemen.

"The first and third goal, we just mismanaged the puck," Capuano said. "We turned it over and gave them point-blank chances right in front of [goalie Kevin Poulin]. That was what happened early on, but we stayed with it. We changed a few things, we adjusted to a few things. I thought our guys executed what we were trying to do and the will and the work ethic was there in the third. Obviously, in the first, we just stood around watching too much."

Koivu's assist on Brodin's goal was the 300th of his career. He's the first player in Wild franchise history to reach the 300-assist mark.

The game was a rare clunker at home for Harding, who entered the night with the NHL's best goals-against average (1.51). He was also 17-2-0 in his past 19 home starts. He was making his first start since Dec. 17 after missing four games while adjusting his medication for multiple sclerosis.

"I'm not concerned," Yeo said of Harding. "It's one game and he's been great for us all year. ... I'm sure he'll bounce back."

Poulin made 33 saves to improve to 5-12-0 this season. The victory was his first since a 46-save performance in a 3-2 shootout win at the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 10 and only his second in his past nine starts.

The win was the Islanders' first when trailing 3-0 since March 22, 1994, against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Back to top ↑