ST. PAUL, Minn. – The freefalling Minnesota Wild left their coach speechless on Sunday night.
It wasn’t for a good reason.
Kyle Okposo scored twice midway through the third period, and the New York Islanders overcame a three-goal deficit to beat the Wild 5-4 on Sunday night.
John Tavares, Cal Clutterbuck and Thomas Hickey also scored for the Islanders, who won for the third time in eight games.
Tavares rejoined the lineup one night after sitting out a home game against New Jersey because of an undisclosed lower-body injury.
Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Nino Niederreiter and Justin Fontaine had goals for the Wild, who have lost five straight and eight of 11.
“It was there for us. That’s the disturbing part,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “It’s hard to find the words for this because this is beyond disturbing right now.
“We have to find a way to win that game. You’re up 3-0 and you’re at home. There’s no excuses.”
Coming off a winless four-game road trip in which they were outscored 19-8, the Wild fell to 15-4-2 at home. They had won 10 of 12 there and 14 of 17. Minnesota has home games during the upcoming week against St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington.
At the season’s halfway point, Minnesota is tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Dallas. Four of their next six games are against top-eight teams in the conference.
“You just need to win. That’s the only way you come out of this,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “The only way you can win in this league is to play a good 60-minute game. We’re going to analyze it (Monday) and find a way.”
The Islanders didn’t play a complete game, either, but they were good enough.
“We just kept chipping away and kept chipping away,” Okposo said. “We were down 3-0, and kind of regrouped. We decided to go after them and start moving our feet.
“For the first 22 minutes we weren’t doing that, so we decided to get pucks deep and go to the net.”
Okposo’s second goal capped a wild 2-minute span in which the Islanders took the lead, lost it, and regained it.
Okposo, who played 1 1-2 seasons at the University of Minnesota, scored the winner with 5:48 to play when he raced in from the left wall and put in a rebound after Thomas Vanek was stopped by Josh Harding.
The goal came 27 seconds after Fontaine lifted a rebound over New York goalie Kevin Poulin to tie it 4-4. Okposo had given the Islanders a 4-3 lead 92 seconds earlier when his slap shot beat Harding low on the glove side.
With the Islanders trailing 3-0 midway through the second period, Tavares took a shot from the right edge of the crease that hit Koivu’s skate. The New York captain reached in and poked the puck across the line.
Clutterbuck, traded for Niederreiter on June 30, tipped in a shot from Hickey late in the period to get the Islanders within one goal.
Hickey tied it at 6:30 of the third, cutting across the crease to tip a pass from Colin McDonald high into the Wild net.
“We’ve had our struggles, and they’re a good hockey team, they’re going to get through it,” said Islanders coach Jack Capuano, whose team lost 10 straight from Nov. 19 to Dec. 9. “We didn’t talk anything about what they’ve done or their record. We just wanted to keep applying the pressure to them.”
Harding returned after missing four games to adjust his medications for multiple sclerosis, but the Wild played their third straight game without their best offensive player. Zach Parise was placed on the injured list on Saturday because of a bruised foot.
Even without Parise, Minnesota had the game’s first eight shots, the last of which gave the Wild a 1-0 lead early in the first period when Suter’s wrist shot on a rebound beat Poulin. It was Suter’s first goal in 51 games.
Brodin and Niederreiter scored in the first 3 minutes of the second period for a 3-0 lead.
Poulin got a piece of a wrist shot from Brodin after the defenceman took a pass from Koivu, but the puck trickled across the line at 39 seconds. The assist was the 300th of Koivu’s career. He added No. 301 at 2:59 when Niederreiter—the Islanders top pick in the 2010 draft—beat Poulin from in front.
“The first half of the game I thought we looked great, and then the execution the second half of the game,” Yeo said. “There’s a lot that’s between the ears right now that we have to fix.”
NOTES: New York was missing forwards Michael Grabner (illness) and Josh Bailey (upper-body). Each is considered day-to-day. … Suter played 33 minutes, 14 seconds, the sixth time in eight games he has exceeded the 30-minute mark. … The Islanders are 12-4-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-17-5 when they don’t. … Minnesota welcomed the 10-millionth fan to watch the team at the Xcel Energy Center.