UNIONDALE, N.Y. – One day after Kyle Okposo was left off the U.S. Olympic team, the New York Islanders forward added another clip to his highlight reel.
Okposo scored 58 seconds into overtime to lift the Islanders to a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night after they blew a two-goal lead to the Stanley Cup champions.
Barring injuries to others, Okposo will likely be home during the Sochi Olympics. Yet he didn’t hang his head after being passed over.
“You’re giving me chills right now,” Okposo said during an on-ice interview as the Nassau Coliseum crowd chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
“Sometimes you get tough bounces in life,” Okposo added. “You don’t always achieve your goals. Tonight I thought I left everything out there.”
Casey Cizikas scored in his 100th NHL game, and Thomas Vanek added a goal for the Islanders. Defenceman Andrew MacDonald had two assists, and Evgeni Nabokov made 37 saves.
Okposo ended it with his 16th goal.
“He was probably a little disappointed,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of the Olympic snub. “He is just excited that we won the game.”
The Islanders have won three straight, building off a pair of comeback road victories against Minnesota and Boston—Chicago’s opponent in last year’s Cup finals.
“Right now, we’re competing and we’re winning some battles we weren’t winning earlier this season,” Capuano said. “With Boston and Chicago, you can see the skill level. We had to be on our toes, we had to be sharp, we had to execute.”
Brent Seabrook scored in the second period, and Ben Smith early in the third scored to help the Blackhawks rally for a standings point. Patrick Kane was held without a point for the second consecutive game after recording at least one in a career-best 14 straight.
Crawford returned from a 10-game injury absence and improved as the game went on, shining after his club got even. He finished with 31 saves and was superb in the third.
“The energy was definitely there. I was seeing the puck pretty well,” Crawford said. “There were maybe some rebounds I gave up that usually I take care of but I felt pretty good.”
The Islanders have a four-game winning streak on the road, but haven’t had recent success at home. Since their last regulation win at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 12 against Nashville, the Islanders are just 2-5-4 there.
“I definitely hope something is brewing,” Nabokov said. “We have to stick with the moment and our game plan. The defence did a great job clearing rebounds. That was the key.
“We have put three together,” Nabokov said. “Now we have to for the fourth one.”
Chicago is 8-1-3 in its last 12 games.
“They attacked,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They have some quickness and speed and they make plays. It was nice to get it to overtime, but it didn’t last very long.”
Several inches of snow piled up in the parking lot and on cars during the game. The Islanders offered all ticket-holders, whether they came to the game or not, the opportunity to exchange tickets for any weekday home game this season. Also, hot dogs and sodas were discounted to $2.
Though the crowd thinned after the second period, many seats were filled despite the ominous forecast that called for upward of 10 inches of snow by Friday.
Many of the 13,618 in attendance were decked out in Blackhawks red, but when cheers of “Let’s Go Hawks!” went up, they were met with boos and counter calls of “Let’s Go Islanders!”
Smith’s tying goal 1:50 into the third elicited a loud celebratory cheer that wasn’t answered by home team supporters.
After a turnover in the Islanders’ end, Patrick Sharp brought the puck from behind the net and tried to jam it in. A scramble in the crease ensued, and Smith poked in his fifth of the season.
Cizikas made a quick impact in the first period when he knocked the puck free from Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell and then beat Bickell to the loose puck at the Chicago blue line. Cizikas corralled the puck, skated in alone on Crawford and scored his fifth of the season with 4:36 left in the period after shifting from backhand to forehand.
Outside of that, the Blackhawks had the better of the play in the opening frame, holding a 12-5 edge in shots.
The Islanders doubled their lead 8:09 into the second when Vanek netted his 14th goal with a backhander in front off a rebound of MacDonald’s shot.
New York took the first penalty of the game when Matt Carkner was sent off for tripping with 2:34 remaining in the second, and Chicago’s potent power play took advantage.
Kris Versteeg sent a crisp, cross-zone pass to the left circle to Seabrook, who ripped a one-timer as he crouched to a knee past Nabokov for his fifth of the season with 1:24 left in the period.
Sharp took the Blackhawks’ first penalty, cross-checking with 24.5 seconds to go in the second. The Islanders started the third with 1:36 left on the advantage but couldn’t convert.
NOTES: The Blackhawks entered with the NHL’s third-best power play and the top road unit. New York has the worst penalty-killing unit at home. … Chicago D Michael Kostka played his sixth game. Fellow defenceman Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival were out.