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Islanders rally from three-goal deficit to beat Wild

Cal Clutterbuck celebrates a goal against the Minnesota

Cal Clutterbuck celebrates a goal against the Minnesota Wild during the second period. (Dec. 29, 2013) Credit: Getty

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- It started out as Nino Niederreiter's revenge. It ended with hometown kid Kyle Okposo making his strongest case yet for the U.S. Olympic squad, and the Islanders completing a stunning rally.

Okposo scored twice in the final 7:47 of the third period, giving the Islanders the lead each time, and the visitors hung on for a 5-4 win over the Wild Sunday night, rallying from a three-goal deficit for a victory for the first time in nearly 20 years.

"We needed one like that," said Okposo, who snapped home a rebound of Thomas Vanek's shot with 5:48 left to provide the winner three days before the U.S. Olympic squad will be named. "We just stuck with it."

Okposo's second goal capped a three-goal sequence in a 1:59 span. It started when he blasted a shot off the side boards on the rush past Wild goalie Josh Harding to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead. The Wild's Justin Fontaine flipped a rebound over Kevin Poulin just 1:32 later to tie it, but Okposo scored again 27 seconds later.

Even after that goal, there were a few more harrowing moments. The Islanders were down a man with 4:58 to go and did some serious work on their 30th-ranked penalty kill, with Thomas Hickey (goal, two assists) and Andrew MacDonald diving to block shots and Poulin (33 saves) managing to keep a few golden chances out of the net.

"Guys were sprawling everywhere," said Hickey, whose deft deflection of Colin McDonald's pass 6:30 into the third period tied it at 3. "We clawed our way back into this one, and that PK was a prime example of us doing that."

There wasn't much clawing done in the opening 28 minutes as the Islanders fell behind by three goals for the ninth time in the last 16 road games. Niederreiter, whom the Islanders chose in the first round of the 2010 draft and traded to Minnesota on draft day last June for Cal Clutterbuck, set up the Wild's second goal and scored the third 2:59 into the second period.

"We were doing a lot of standing around and watching," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "That was exactly the way we don't want to play."

John Tavares, who returned from a one-game absence because of a lower-body injury, knocked in a feed from Vanek at 8:45 of the second to wake up the Islanders.

Hickey's wrist shot was tipped in by Clutterbuck with 1:10 left in the second to make it a game.

And then the Islanders finished off their comeback from three goals down, their first such victory since March 1994 against the Lightning.

"We didn't lose our mind-set this time," MacDonald said. "We felt like we could come back if we started moving our feet and playing smart. We did that."

Notes & quotes: The Islanders were without Michael Grabner (illness) and Josh Bailey (upper body), both of whom are day-to-day . . . Niederreiter said Sunday morning that he holds no ill will toward the Islanders for his tumultuous two pro seasons there before his trade to the Wild for Clutterbuck. Niederreiter's agent, Andre Rufner, privately and publicly requested a trade for his client in January after Niederreiter was passed over for a call-up from Bridgeport to join the post-lockout training camp. "I wish it could have worked out there," Niederreiter said. "I played my first games there, I like a lot of people there. But I think this was for the best." His play Sunday night may have said otherwise about his feelings toward the Islanders . . . Tavares pronounced himself ready to go after the morning skate. "It's a matter of can I make it worse? And the medical staff doesn't feel I can," he said. "I didn't feel it at all out there this morning." . . . Former Islander Zenon Konopka was a healthy scratch for the Wild.

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