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Okposo snaps 3rd period tie with 1st NHL goal; Islanders beat Devils 3-1

NEWARK, N.J. - Kyle Okposo picked the perfect time to score his first NHL goal. He will always have the story of how he made Martin Brodeur his first victim.

"Scoring a game-winning goal against one of the best goalies in history, that's not bad at all," he said. "I don't know what could be better."

Okposo, the New York Islanders' 19-year-old top prospect who was called up this week from the minor leagues, scored a tie-breaking power-play goal with 2:35 remaining and helped his new club beat the New Jersey Devils 3-1 on Friday night.

New York ended a six-game losing streak and kept the Devils from taking over first place in the Eastern Conference.

Okposo, who made his NHL debut Tuesday in New York's home loss to Toronto, scored shortly after having his helmet knocked to the ice. He took a pass in the right circle from Richard Park and snapped a drive past Brodeur.

"He's a great goalie and I grew up watching him," Okposo said. "It felt great to get that first goal in my second game. I got cross-checked and all of sudden, here comes the puck. Parkie gave me a great pass, and I had to knock it in."

Trent Hunter added an empty-net goal with 18.8 seconds left to close the scoring and drop the Devils into a flat-footed tie with Pittsburgh atop the Atlantic Division. Both teams are 42-25-7 with eight games remaining and lead the New York Rangers by three points.

New Jersey had a chance to jump over Montreal for first in the East, but still trails the Canadiens by one point.

The Islanders, playing without No. 1 goalie Rick DiPietro who had season-ending hip surgery this week, took a 1-0 lead less than five minutes in.

Blake Comeau brought the puck behind the net, reversed his path, came back in front and fired a shot that eluded Brodeur, who was screened by Park.

The Devils tied it with a power-play goal with six minutes remaining in the first period. Just 16 seconds after Steve Regier went off for hooking Travis Zajac, the second-year center scored his 14th goal off a rebound.

Wade Dubielewicz, subbing for DiPietro, stopped Brian Gionta's initial shot, but Zajac stuffed the puck in at 13:46. Dubielewicz was spectacular from then on in making 34 saves, many acrobatic stops in the final period.

"It's big for us," said Dubielewicz, 3-0 against New Jersey. "We have a lot of young guys out there now and we want to finish the season on a positive note."

The Devils thought they scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, also during a power play, when Sergei Brylin put a backhander past Dubielewicz off a mad scramble in front. The goal was waved off after a video review showed that the net became dislodged before the puck went in.

"It was definitely a disallowed goal," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "The (net) peg comes out of the ice for a split second and then the puck goes in. They made the right call."

Sutter was disappointed that his team lost a second straight home game to a New York team. The Devils, beaten 2-1 in a shootout by the Rangers on Wednesday, lost this one despite a 35-16 shots advantage.

"All games are tough when you lose," Sutter said. "I don't care when it is. I knew the Islanders would play hard and keep it close. In a game like this, you have to score. You have to capitalize on the chances that you get. We scored one goal, it wasn't enough. We can't take a penalty late like that. It decided the game. It's undisciplined play."

Brodeur left the ice midway through the second period for nearly two minutes to get his skates sharpened, but then replaced Kevin Weekes after the backup goalie made one save.

Brodeur returned to a standing ovation with 7:24 remaining in the period.

Islanders captain Bill Guerin, who began his career with the Devils, said the victory was important for his young team even though New York has fallen out of the playoff race.

"Dubie was just great," Guerin said. "It was good to pull out a win for him. We haven't played that well for him. We're really into it and we showed that we still care and have pride."

Okposo, who also had his first NHL assist Friday by helping to set up Comeau's goal, is already feeling more comfortable in the NHL.

"I'm more composed and feeling good out there," Okposo said. "I didn't know if I would get a shot to play here this year, but now I'm here, I'm going to make the most of it."

Notes: Dubielewicz beat the Devils in a shootout of the final game of last season to secure a playoff berth for the Islanders.


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