Isles rally late before beating Flyers in shootout
The Islanders have been battling to the end of games the past month, which has helped them get back to the fringes of the playoff race.
Perhaps it's more accurate to say they've been battling from the middle to the end. For the eighth time in their last 12 games, the Islanders overcame an early deficit, and for the fifth time in that span, they rallied from at least two goals down to win.
True, the Islanders needed a shootout, and their 4-3 win over the Flyers on Monday gave up a point to a team sitting in one of the Metropolitan Division's playoff spots. But the two-goal rally in the third, capped by Kyle Okposo's 20th goal of the season with 2:58 left, allowed the Isles to feel they're doing the right things -- even if they begin only when there already is a little bit of wrong out there.
"In some ways, it's easier to play from behind. You can go all out," Thomas Hickey said. "It's pretty easy to say that's how you should play all the time. But it's tough to hold leads in this league."
The Islanders demonstrated that Saturday in Philadelphia, coughing up leads of 2-0 and 4-3 before falling to the Flyers, 6-4. With that bad taste still lingering and a 3-1 deficit entering the third period Monday, the Islanders pressed consistently in the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Flyers 17-3.
Brock Nelson jammed home a nice feed from Josh Bailey just after a power play expired to pull the Isles within a goal at 8:16, livening the Islanders' portion of a near-sellout crowd (16,048).
With the Islanders firing shots on Ray Emery and with Anders Nilsson -- who had allowed a couple of soft goals to Matt Read in the second period to create the deficit -- not exactly peppered, the Islanders got the late break they worked for when Steve Downie went off for holding Calvin de Haan with 4:06 left.
Frans Nielsen sent a quick pass from the left circle through the slot, and Okposo, at the right post, initially flubbed the shot with the net wide open. But he got his stick on the bouncing puck and stuffed it in for the Islanders' second power-play goal of the game.
Okposo got the deciding goal in the fourth round of the shootout, the third Islander to beat Emery in the skill competition. Nilsson stopped Sean Couturier's try to help keep the Islanders in the wild-card hunt.
The win was only the Islanders' fourth in 18 Metro Division games (4-11-3).
"This is a team we always seem to have trouble with," said John Tavares, who tied the score at 1 with a power-play goal at 9:26 of the second period. "And we obviously need to be better in these divisional games. So when we got down a couple goals, we were a desperate team."
Perhaps they can figure out a way to instill that desperation as soon as the puck drops, given their eighth-place status and the fact that they are the only Metro team under .500.
But they will have to take the late desperation as a consolation. With a league-high seven wins (7-17-2) when trailing after two periods -- the same number of wins they have when leading after two (7-4-3) -- it's the only thing saving this team right now.