Isles clobber Oilers, Okposo nabs second career hat trick
NEW YORK (AP) After two disappointing road losses, the New York Islanders needed to face a last-place opponent like the Edmonton Oilers.
Kyle Okposo had his second career hat trick after the Islanders opened a commanding lead with three first-period goals and New York routed the Oilers 8-1 on Sunday.
Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for the Islanders (27-18-6), who moved within three points of the New York Rangers for second-place in the Metropolitan Division.
“It was good. Good to put up eight. It was a pretty good team effort,” Okposo said. “I thought we were going on all cylinders. It’s definitely nice to get rewarded.”
Johnny Boychuck, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin scored in the opening period, chasing former Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson, who was replaced after Kulemin’s goal by former Ranger Cam Talbot.
Boychuk, in his first home game after missing 11 games overall with an upper body injury suffered on Dec. 31 at Buffalo, ripped a slap shot past Nilsson at 2:57 for his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s always good when you strike early,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We did a lot of good things and got two points.”
Tavares made it 2-0 at 9:12 with his 19th goal before Kulemin added his sixth at 11:24. Oilers coach Todd McLellan then pulled Nilsson, who stopped only seven of the 10 shots he faced.
Okposo made it 4-0 at 2:32 of the second, then scored again at 6:09 of the middle period.
After Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid finally put Edmonton on the board with his seventh goal at 6:50, Josh Bailey made it 6-1 at 9:36.
Cal Clutterbuck increased the margin to 7-1 at 16:04 of the middle period with his 11th goal. Talbot raised his arms in frustration after Clutterbuck’s goal, seemingly exasperated with the defensive effort in front of him.
Okposo completed his hat trick at 7:27 of the third, when he whipped a shot on the power play past Talbot for his 15th goal of the season. The goal made it 8-1 and led to a cascade of hats tossed onto the Barclays Center ice. It was a season high in goals for the Islanders.
“Kyle has been playing awesome,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who had three assists. “His contributions have been felt all year. He has been one of the best players on the ice game in and game out.”
The defeat following Saturday night’s 5-1 loss at Montreal left McLellan fuming.
“I don’t think we were prepared to play for those first few goals against,” McLellan said. “I’m very disappointed in the preparation and the approach to the game. We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and came here and responded in a very inappropriate way. “
The 19-year-old McDavid - the first overall pick in last June’s draft - returned after missing 37 games with a broken collarbone for the opening game of the Edmonton’s four-game trip. McDavid scored once and added two assists in a 5-1 win at Columbus, then had two assists in a 7-2 victory at Ottawa.
Playing his first game since Jan. 12, Greiss was his usual stellar self. He didn’t have an especially tough game despite the litany of offensive skill on the Oilers roster in addition to McDavid.
“It always helps when we score a bunch of quick goals. It seemed like it was going our way tonight,” Greiss said. “That would be awesome if we could score eight goals every game. We have to be realistic. It’s not going to happen too often.”
Greiss improved to 14-6-2 this season, his first with the Islanders.
The Islanders improved to 17-8-3 at Barclays Center in their first season in Brooklyn after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.
The Oilers haven’t won in New York against the Islanders since Dec. 14, 1999, when they beat the Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum.
NOTES: Former Islander Griffin Reinhart played against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2012 for the first time. ... The teams meet again in Edmonton on Feb. 28.