ATLANTA – Kyle Okposo said the New York Islanders were looking for a new attitude in their first game after the all-star break.
A rare scoring outburst should help their outlook.
Okposo scored his first two goals of the season, including a go-ahead shot in New York’s big second period, and rookie goaltender Kevin Poulin stopped 25 shots, leading the Islanders to a 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.
Okposo injured his right shoulder in training camp and missed the first 44 games before making his season debut on Jan. 20. He also had an assist to help the lowly Islanders, trying to stay out of last place in the Eastern Conference, snap a three-game losing streak.
“It’s nice to get the monkey off the back, to get that first one,” said Okposo of his first goal, which gave New York a 2-1 lead.
P.A. Parenteau scored one minute later on the power play as the Islanders took command with three goals in the period. Okposo scored again in the third.
“I think we just settled down,” Okposo said. “We found our legs. We really wanted to take it to them. We were trying to come in here with a new attitude after the break and I thought we played pretty well.”
The 20-year-old Poulin earned his third career win after he was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Monday. Another New York rookie, Travis Hamonic, tied the game 1-1 with his first career goal early in the second period.
Freddy Meyer scored in the opening period for Atlanta, which couldn’t bolster its playoff hopes. The Thrashers remained one point ahead of Carolina, which lost to Boston, in the race for the eighth and final post-season spot in the Eastern Conference.
“They came in and played a hard game,” Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said. “They won the battles and the game. We have to find a way to win these games and protect our building.
“We have to realize a few more games like that and we’re done. … We didn’t fight like we wanted to get in the playoffs.”
The Thrashers have won only five of their last 18 games.
“We lost so many battles in the offensive zone, and that allowed them to keep coming back up the ice,” Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. “Our work ethic, our commitment, is lacking.”
New York lost eight of 10 before the all-star break. The Islanders had scored no more than two goals in their last six games before breaking out in the second against the Thrashers.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Okposo “is going to add offence, obviously.”
Meyer’s first goal of the season gave Atlanta the lead. Meyer scored from behind the net when he pushed the puck off the back of Poulin’s right leg.
Capuano called Meyer’s shot “kind of a fluke goal.”
The Islanders, who have had little success after giving up the first goal, didn’t panic.
“We didn’t get down,” Okposo said. “We didn’t have any feeling of doubt after they scored their first goal. We just kept coming and coming and were able to get up.”
The Islanders answered when Hamonic beat Pavelec from the right circle in the second.
With 3:21 remaining in the period, Okposo scored on a putback after two saves by Pavelec. Atlanta’s Niclas Bergfors drew a delay of game penalty shortly after Okposo’s goal, setting up Parenteau’s power-play shot past defenceman Brent Sopel.
Atlanta all-star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was held without a point for the 11th straight game.
The announced attendance was 11,176, but the actual turnout appeared to well below that figure. Atlanta has set two franchise record attendance lows this season: 8,820 against Buffalo on Oct. 20 and 8,461 against Colorado on Nov. 4.
NOTES: Atlanta F Evander Kane returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Tobias Enstrom (finger) missed his third straight. … The Islanders earned only their fifth win in 33 games in which they allowed the first goal. They improved to 5-24-4 after trailing 1-0. … The Thrashers managed only seven shots on goal in their listless third period. … Pavelec stopped 29 shots.