Okposo scores four as Isles beat Penguins to regain 1st place in East
Kyle Okposo called former Islanders star Bryan Trottier a mentor. He made his teacher proud on a night New York’s career-leading scorer was honored on Long Island.
Okposo scored three of his career-high four goals in a wild third period, and the Islanders rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 and move back on top of the Eastern Conference on Friday night.
"When I came into the league, my first rookie camp (Trottier) was there," Okposo said. "I just kind of picked his brain. The way that he carried himself and still carries himself is something that I really look up to and try to emulate."
Trottier won the Stanley Cup four times with the Islanders and twice with the Penguins. He tops New York’s career scoring list with 1,353 points.
Okposo seemed to be trying to catch him in one night.
He netted New York’s first goal, got the tying tally in the third, put his team ahead moments later, and then punctuated the Islanders’ fourth straight win with goal No. 4 inside an electric Nassau Coliseum.
"To score four is pretty special," said Okposo, who has 13 overall this season and a career-best 13 against the Penguins. "The atmosphere — it was awesome out there. I haven’t really heard it that loud since we played these guys in the (2013) playoffs."
The Penguins seemed poised to overtake the Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division and tie Tampa Bay for first in the East, but they failed to hold leads of 2-0 and 3-2.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist in a losing cause.
"We just didn’t raise our level enough in the third. We didn’t make smart plays," Crosby said. "They are a good team. You give them chances like that, they are going to put them in."
Okposo cut New York’s deficit to 2-1 in the first period, tied it 3-3 at 6:42 of the third, and put the Islanders ahead with 8:09 remaining. He added an insurance power-play goal with 2:39 remaining, and Michael Grabner scored an empty-net goal with 1:13 left.
"They took the momentum with the tying goal. Had a real surge," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "They took over the game."
Okposo had help from his linemates, captain John Tavares and Josh Bailey, who both had three assists. Bailey sent a perfect feed to Okposo in the slot for the go-ahead goal.
"I seem to have some puck luck against them," Okposo said. "They have been such a good team for a long time. They did a really good job of limiting our opportunities. They frustrated us."
Crosby gave the Penguins the lead in the first with a power-play goal and then assisted on David Perron’s man-advantage tally. He scored again with 4.4 seconds left in the second period to break a 2-2 tie.
Crosby’s three points gave him 50 this season, tying him for the team lead with Evgeni Malkin, who had one assist. The Islanders (30-13-1) lead Pittsburgh (26-11-6) by three points.
New York, which returned from a 5-2 trip, has won four straight. The Islanders are 3-1 against Pittsburgh this season with one meeting remaining.
"Our division is heating up and there are some really good teams that are chasing us now," Okposo said. "We just want to keep getting better."
Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves and outdueled fellow All-Star Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 29 shots and heard taunting chants of his name.
Ryan Strome added a goal for New York, and Tavares notched his 200th NHL assist.
"We’re in first place now, but that can change real quick," Tavares said. "All these wins are big wins, but you’ve got to go out there and continue that."
Crosby made it 1-0 when he put in a rebound of Chris Kunitz’s shot with 9:08 left in the first.
Just 1:30 later, Crosby helped set up Perron’s ninth goal and fourth in five games since being acquired from Edmonton on Jan. 2.
The Penguins scored two goals on two shots in 55 seconds of combined power-play time in the first. After netting only two man-advantage goals in 10 games, Pittsburgh has four in the past three.
New York’s second power play failed to produce a goal, but the Islanders cut the deficit in half just seconds after the advantage. Tavares drove down the left side of the Penguins zone, made a slick move to get around defenseman Simon Despres, and slid a pass across the crease to Okposo, who guided the puck in with his skate with 3:09 left.
Strome tied it with 7:29 left in the second when he swept in a loose puck in the crease, but Crosby put the Penguins back ahead 3-2 during a delayed penalty.
NOTES: The Islanders have outshot their opponents in 15 straight games. … The Penguins recalled D Scott Harrington from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).