When the New York Islanders grabbed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, it meant that their first round opponents would be the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby and company had pretty much dominated the East in the lockout-shortened season. So, there weren’t too many people picking the Islanders in their NHL pools.
After the drubbing the club received in game 1, it seemed like a no-brainer that the Penguins would have the broom out by the time the series switched to the Coliseum out on Long Island.
However, something unexpected happened in game 2. The Islanders won it in overtime from the stick of Minnesota native Kyle Okposo. Okposo was also the catalyst in game three that initiated the two-goal comeback, which would eventually send that contest into overtime as well. It wouldn’t end the same for the Islanders, but it showed something. This was a club that had some heart and wasn’t going to go down as easily as the Penguins had anticipated.
For the 25-year-old forward, his first foray into the post season has been a memorable one. Before tonight’s game 4, Okposo had those two vital goals and an assist to his credit.
Okposo was the seventh overall pick by the Islanders in the 2006 Entry Draft. He has been an up and coming offensive threat in the lineup since joining the club on a full time basis during the 2008-09 season. This year, the gritty playmaker netted four goals and notched 20 assists in 48 games.
The Islanders have had faith in his ability to help the club transform from a perpetual bottom feeder to a playoff contender, which is why they rewarded him with a five-year $14-million contract in May of 2011.
The Penguins were lucky to squeak out an overtime victory in game 3 and the Islanders were ready to even up the series on their home ice. The Coliseum was rocking before the puck dropped and fans were already taunting Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury shortly after the opening faceoff.
It was nip and tuck going into the second intermission with the Penguins holding onto a one goal lead when Okposo sent his club to the locker room with the score knotted at three. This would be another huge goal by Okposo in this all-important game 4.
This one certainly was not a battle of the goaltenders with the Islanders and Penguins trading goals back and forth, but it did turn out to be gold for the underdog who managed to hang on for victory.
John Tavares knocked one in to send the series back to Pittsburgh all tied up at two. Casey Cizikas added the insurance goal and there was much celebration amongst Islander fans! Who would have thought?