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Okposo's hard work pays off with winning goal

Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders

Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders celebrates his overtime goal against the New York Rangers. (December 26, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

Kyle Okposo needed this.

After a stretch that must have seemed interminable, Okposo finally snapped his goal-less drought at 18 games last night, scoring in overtime to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

After making two pinpoint passes to record assists as the Islanders took a 2-0 lead after two periods, Okposo scored his first goal since Nov. 14. His wrist shot deflected off Marc Staal and the post and beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with 47 seconds left in overtime.

"If you would've told me before the game that he'd score the overtime game-winner,'' Islanders coach Scott Gordon said, "I would have sacrificed the point just to get him there."

"It definitely weighs on you," Okposo said. "But now the pressure is off."

For more than six weeks, the inability to find the back of the net upset and confounded Okposo, who is not only trying to keep the Islanders in playoff contention but is fighting for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Rather than let his play dip as a result of his struggles, Okposo has elevated his game. He not only leads the team with 20 assists but has been a crucial special-teams component and is proving to be one of the best defensive forwards on the team, maybe the best.

Before the winning goal, Okposo provided the sort of Herculean effort that has become his trademark in the absence of goal-scoring - fighting for the puck and then giving it to his teammates in position for them to score.

Okposo spun to make a deft backhanded feed to Frans Nielsen in front of the net to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 7:45 in the first period. He muscled his way through two defenders along the boards to maintain possession of the puck before dishing to Blake Comeau for a shorthanded goal and a 2-0 lead at 14:21 in the second period.

And then - after Brandon Dubinsky scored his second goal of the game with 46.6 seconds left in the third period to tie the score at 2 - Okposo finally was rewarded with that elusive sixth goal of the season.

"It was definitely a fun way to do it," Okposo said. "Especially in this building and the way we came back like that."

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