Islanders stars step up to help keep series competitive
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders have authored an unmistakably clear message to the Penguins.
The Eastern Conference quarterfinal series will not be a coronation.
“It takes four to win the series,” coach Jack Capuano said after the Islanders fell behind the Penguins two games to one in the best-of-seven series by dropping a 5-4 overtime decision Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. “The sun is going to come up tomorrow.”
Despite the loss, the Islanders stressed confidence, pointing to the fact that they outshot the Penguins, 36-25, and that they scored two goals in the third period to force overtime.
“We played (well). We played a good game,” Islanders center John Tavares said.
Tavares scored his first goal of the series to tie the score, 4-4.
“We need to regroup and know that we're playing some good hockey,” he added. “We're creating opportunities and believe in ourselves.”
That belief in each other has been sustained by the play of their stars. Along with Tavares, Kyle Okposo finished Game 3 with two points (a goal and an assist), and Matt Moulson scored a goal. Okposo and Moulson have three points (two goals and an assist) each in the three games. Tavares has tallied two points.
“Your best players are going to be your best players for us to have a chance,” Capuano said.
Whereas Tavares and Moulson are known commodities, Okposo is bit of a wild card. The seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft has had a stilted career. He suffered a concussion following a hit from then-Calgary Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a 2009 preseason game. More recently, he missed 44 games in the 2010-11 season after tearing his labrum in training camp.
“I remember my first year Kyle was really playing well,” Tavares said. “Obviously, the shoulder injury was really tough for him at that point. He was really a dominant player then and, obviously, (it took) a little longer than he wanted to get a lot of things back. But he did some good things towards the end of last season and same with this year toward the end of the season. You can just see he's taken it to another level.
“(Okposo is) one of our leaders and has a great skill set. We need him going like that.”
Along with the statistical production, Okposo has played a mean-edged game when matched up against Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
The Islanders right winger was credited with two hits and consistently was able to win battles along the boards and carry the puck into the offensive zone.
“Especially the last two months and a half of the year, he's playing a lot more physical. He's playing, obviously, a lot more poised and confident with the puck. He's playing (the way he did) at the end of the year last year,” Capuano said. “He's been a big reason for our success down the stretch, and his play has continued to be that way.”
Denis Gorman is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- New Penguins coach to meet with Malkin
- Rossi: Johnston must reach Malkin in Moscow
- Hollidaysburg native Lafferty relishing his chance with Penguins
- Penguins assistant Martin gets new job title
- Q&A: New coach Johnston feeling at home with Penguins
- Penguins notebook: Kapanen shines in scrimmage