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Power play comes up big for Islanders

Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders

Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders celebrates his first-period goal against the Detroit Red Wings with teammate Anders Lee #27 at Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, March 29, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Red Wings -- owners of the second-best power-play percentage in the league -- must've been especially touched Sunday night.

In what became a 5-4 victory by the Islanders at the Coliseum, Brock Nelson scored with the man-advantage 4:01 into the game to cut the Isles' deficit in half. Kyle Okposo got in on the action about five minutes later for a 3-2 lead. Frans Nielsen's power-play goal 16 seconds into the second period made it 4-3.

Lest the other special-teams units feel left out, Cal Clutterbuck added a shorthanded goal -- a takeaway at center ice that led to a one-on-one with Jimmy Howard and a flick into the net before Clutterbuck crashed into the boards.

The eventual game-winner, scored 3:57 into the second period, was the Islanders' first shorthanded goal since Jan. 19, when Nicolay Kulemin scored in a 7-4 win over the Flyers.

"It's timely,'' coach Jack Capuano said. "In the time we were down, it got us back in the game . . . It's a surge. It's a change in momentum for your hockey club.''

And it's no secret that the Islanders need all the momentum they can get. It was their first home win in eight games (1-6-1) and a needed boost for a power play that faltered against the Ducks on Saturday and an offense that averaged 1.5 goals in the previous eight games.

"It was good to see we got rewarded,'' said John Tavares, who picked up two of his three assists on the goals by Okposo and Nielsen. "I think we've been doing some decent things, but I think, obviously, when you don't score, sometimes the pressure can mount . . . We scored on our chances, we had some good puck movement, we had some good puck retrievals. We just stuck with it.''

Added Okposo: "I think our power play is pretty underrated. Everyone is yelling 'Shoot' all the time, but we have pretty good structure on our power play . . . and tonight, we were able to get the bounces."

It also provided some needed backup for the Islanders' penalty kill, which was at the bottom of the league for most of the season, but was perfect in the previous 12 games. That streak that was stopped when Pavel Datsyuk swept in a rebound off a shot from Tomas Tatar to draw the Red Wings to within 5-4 midway through the second period.

"Our PK has been really good lately,'' Ryan Strome said. And because "the power play struggled [against Anaheim], it was good to have a bounce-back game. We got contributions from both units and I think that's important.''

Perhaps none was more important than Clutterbuck's goal, his seventh.

"It's a big goal for us,'' he said. "Obviously, I was just the beneficiary of a tough bounce on their part, but it's good to get an opportunity to put the puck in the back of the net and help the team out in that way, for sure.''

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