By Phil Foley
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ATLANTA (Ticker) — The New York Islanders finally picked up a
victory away from home. But not without a near-colossal
Rookie Kyle Okposo recorded his first career two-goal game as
the Islanders avoided a major meltdown in the third period en
route to a 5-4 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday.
Trent Hunter, Tim Jackman and Doug Weight also scored for New
York, which halted a 14-game road losing streak (0-13-1). The
Islanders had not posted a win away from Nassau Coliseum since
edging the Montreal Canadiens, 4-3, in a shootout on November
All-Star defenseman Mark Streit and rookie Josh Bailey each
notched two assists and Yann Danis made 33 saves for the
Islanders, who entered the third with a four-goal lead only to
watch the Thrashers cut it to one.
Rich Peverley registered a goal and two assists while All-Star
Ilya Kovalchuk, rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian and Marty
Reasoner also scored for Atlanta, which has lost three in a row.
The 2008-09 campaign has been a miserable one for New York,
which was on the brink of matching streaks of futility that
befuddled the expansion 1972-73 club some 36 years ago. Luckily
for them, the Islanders started the second half with a road
contest against the offensively challenged Thrashers.
New York wasted little time turning a half-empty arena in
“Blueland” into “Boo-land.”
Hunter beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen on the Islanders’ first
scoring opportunity, walking down the slot and faking a slap
shot before sliding the puck around the Finn’s outstretched left
pad just 55 seconds into the contest.
Okposo doubled the lead at 7:29, beating Lehtonen from the
bottom of the slot after receiving a backhand pass from the
right side of the net from Bailey.
A defensive breakdown by the listless Thrashers, who allowed 20
shots in the first period, led to the Islanders’ third goal just
under three minutes later.
Andy Hilbert blistered a slap shot from the left faceoff circle
that glanced off the glove of Lehtonen. As the puck trickled
toward the right goalpost, no Atlanta defender bothered to check
Jackman, who easily backhanded it into the net with 9:35
remaining in the period.
Weight, who missed New York’s previous seven games with a leg
injury, sent Lehtonen to the bench to a chorus of boos with 6:43
to go, burying a rebound on the doorstep for his eight goal of
the season and a 4-0 bulge. Lehtonen stopped just 11 shots
before being replaced by Johan Hedberg, who was saddled with the
hard-luck loss despite allowing just one goal on 18 shots.
Following a scoreless middle period, the Islanders nearly
self-destructed in the third.
Bogosian got Atlanta on the board with a one-timer from the blue
line just 26 seconds into the session, Peverley backhanded the
puck past Danis on a breakaway at 6:20 for a power-play goal and
Reasoner cut the deficit to 4-3 just 2:16 later with his eighth
But Okposo, who was drafted seventh overall in 2006, deposited
the puck past Hedberg from alone in front after getting a feed
from the right side by Bailey with 7:21 remaining to push New
York’s advantage to 5-3. The goal came on the Islanders’ first
shot of the period.
Kovalchuk got the Thrashers back within one by deflecting
defenseman Tobias Enstrom’s blast from the blue line past Danis
with 58 seconds left, but Atlanta failed to register another
shot against the netminder.
New York, which lost the first three meetings between the teams,
has won consecutive games for the first time since November