Kyle Okposo Sets The Tone For The Isles In Game Two

Fighting has been, and will continue to be a controversial topic of discussion for as long as it is in the game of hockey. There are those who are against it, and those who are in support of it (Photo Credit: bridgetds/Flickr).

There are those who enjoy seeing a good'ol scrap just for the fun. You know, the ones who say they went to a fight and suddenly a hockey game broke out.

But there are others who understand the role a fight can play in waking up a team; it's ability to provide a spark on the bench that can contribute to better defense, stronger goaltending and ultimately goals that can win hockey games.

That's exactly what Kyle Okposo provided last night.

Okposo had never fought in the NHL prior to his tussle last night with Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen. He did, however, drop the gloves once before against Winnipeg Jets defenseman Mark Stuart in 2011. Both players dropped their gloves, took off their helmets, and circled one another before falling to the ice. According to New York Islanders statistician Eric Hornick, Okposo did not receive a major penalty.

But with that aside, despite Okposo's gritty play, he is not a player you expect to make that type of physical sacrifice in support of his team. But displaying the willingness to change your game and put your body on the line when your team needs it most is how playoff hockey games are won.

The Islanders were dominated physically in game one of this series. John Tavares probably never landed on his ass so often in a hockey game throughout his entire career. The Islanders, who are considered a pretty physical team with players like Travis Hamonic, Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald and Matt Martin, who led the league in hits this year, did not play that style of hockey and were outmatched from start to finish.

So when Matt Moulson was decked in open ice by Niskanen, Okposo felt it was time to answer the bell and change things up. Without hesitation, he dropped his gloves, removed his helmet and quickly delivered a nasty haymaker to Niskanen's face that busted him open almost immediately and dropped him to one knee. Although Niskanen did get a few shots in at the end of the bout, it was evident that Okposo had gotten the better of the battle.

 

 
 
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Just 14 seconds later, McDonald would bring the Isles within one and score a dirty goal on Marc-Andre Fleury. A little over five minutes later, Martin would continue the goal scoring by potting his first of the post-season after the puck bounced off the end boards.

As a hockey player, when you see one of your teammates step out of their comfort zone to engage in a one-on-one battle in order to wake up your team - and get the better of the fight - you have to start questioning whether you are doing as much to help your team win as the player next to you.

This is what defines playoff hockey. In game one, the Islanders didn't show that they belonged in the post-season with the best teams of the league. They looked intimidated and as if they were still playing regular season hockey.

Okposo's style of play must be contagious in that locker room if the Islanders are going to continue to be successful in this series.

Last night they woke up and came ready to go to war. Last night's battle in game two was a huge victory for the Islanders that they get to bring home with them for their fans.

It's time for them to keep going strong in games three and four on Coliseum ice.

-Rob McGowan
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