This past decade of New York Islanders hockey has sort of been what their entire history has been like. They had a couple of strong seasons recently, like their Stanley Cup years in the early 1980s, but were most remembered for poor management and coaching in the early days of John Tavares’ tenure. While the Islanders look to be one of the best teams this season, the 2010s brought some memorable regular-season wins.
5. Okposo: Olympic Snub to Overtime Goal, Jan. 2, 2014
Just days prior to the Islanders game with the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2014 Team USA Olympic roster was released. There was one Islander deserving of a spot but was left off – Kyle Okposo.
While it was upsetting to him and to Islanders fans, who have not had a U.S. Olympian since Rick DiPietro in 2006, Okposo had a special moment in the game against the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
Early on, Casey Cizikas scored the opening goal in his 100th career NHL game. Later, Thomas Vanek, whom the Islanders acquired for Matt Moulson, gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks went on to tie the game at two, as the Islanders continued their struggle of holding leads in third periods.
However, in the 4-on-4 overtime, Tavares came in on a 2-on-1 with Okposo. Tavares’ shot was initially blocked, leading to Okposo scoring the game-winning goal. The fans chanted ‘U-S-A’ while Okposo and the Islanders skated off the ice.
Not only did the goal give them the two points, but shortly after they had a season-long four-game win streak that helped as the Islanders tried to fight for a playoff spot.
4. Islanders Beat Red Wings in OT, Feb. 9, 2018
The Islanders had one of their most exciting games in years in a matchup with the Detroit Red Wings in Feb. 2018. Entering the third period, the Islanders trailed the Red Wings 5-2. However, after Tyler Bertuzzi was issued a five-minute major for elbowing, the Islanders’ power play took off.
It all started with Brock Nelson tipping home a shot from Mat Barzal. Less than a minute later, Anders Lee swept home a rebound to make it a one-goal game.
With under two minutes to go in the major penalty, Nick Leddy tied the game at five with a shot from the point, and then Josh Bailey finished off a beautiful pass from Tavares to give the Islanders a 6-5 lead. With Detroit’s goaltender pulled, they were able to tie the score at six, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra session, Nelson, who already had two goals in the game, came in on a 2-on-1 and scored his third of the game to win it in overtime for one of the Islanders’ most incredible comebacks in a season where they missed the playoffs.
3. Hickey Sends Islanders to Playoffs, April 6, 2016
For many Islanders fans, the main memory they have of clinching a spot in the playoffs was Wade Dubielewicz’s poke check of Sergei Brylin in 2006. However, they had another exciting clincher in 2016.
With three games remaining in the regular season, the Islanders had an opportunity to secure a playoff spot against the Washington Capitals. The Capitals had a 1-0 lead on Alexander Ovechkin’s 46th goal of the season. In the second, Tavares evened the game up with a big-time goal assisted by Thomas Hickey and Okposo.
Despite all that hard work, T.J. Oshie regained the lead for the Capitals, and Ovechkin added his second of the night. But the Islanders were not done. Both Okposo and Lee scored third-period goals, which allowed Hickey to score the clinching goal. The Islanders faced the Florida Panthers in Round 1, a series they won in six games. Hickey scored another game-winner in Game 1 of the series. They were later ousted in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
2. Tavares Returns to Long Island, Feb. 2, 2019
Fans had this day marked down on the calendar when the schedule was released for the game Tavares would be returning to Long Island with his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. New York had one chance earlier in the season to see Tavares on the road in Toronto and the night belonged to Barzal, who had a hat trick.
This time on Long Island, with a sell-out crowd heckling Tavares all night, the Islanders put on an offensive show. Toronto actually scored first, but it was all New York for the next 45 minutes.
Anthony Beauvillier tied the game at one and in the second period, the Islanders exploded. Lee scored what was the game-winning goal, and following that, Cizikas electrified the crowd with a shorthanded goal with Tavares on the ice.
Later in the game, Valtteri Filppula and Leddy extended the lead to four, before Nelson reached the 20-goal mark with the sixth goal of the game, as the sell-out crowd continued to taunt their former captain well into the night.
Tavares would get revenge later in the season with a game-winning goal, but the Islanders had one of their best seasons in years, making the playoffs and sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in Round 1 before getting swept themselves by the Carolina Hurricanes.
1. Fight Night vs. Pittsburgh, Feb 11, 2011
The Islanders made a statement to the entire league one night at home after feeling like they were being taken advantage of by teams around the league. Previously, in their matchup with the Penguins a week prior, Blake Comeau suffered a concussion after a blind-side hit by Maxime Talbot. Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson fought DiPietro and broke a bone in his face, as the Penguins seemed to be enjoying what was going on.
However, that would change one night at the Coliseum. The Islanders brought up Michael Haley from the American Hockey League’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers for an extra tough guy, and moments into the game, he fought Craig Adams. The fights would continue as Trevor Gillies and Eric Godard dropped the gloves after a goal.
Later in the game, Gillies took a cheap shot on Talbot and a complete brawl broke out with Haley fighting Adams and the goaltender Johnson. Goddard came in off the bench to get himself a 10-game suspension trying to protect his goaltender. In the end, there were 346 penalty minutes in a 9-3 win.
Michael Grabner and Moulson led the Islanders with two goals with Travis Hamonic, Jesse Joensuu, P.A. Parenteau, and Haley of all people scoring in the win.
With just about a month left in 2019, the Islanders will have a few more chances to add to this list. They will be hoping to get back on track following their tough trip out west.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.