Kyle Okposo relishes to chance to play in a winner-take-all Game 7 vs. the Capitals.
Kyle Okposo spent the closing moments of Game 6 in a fit of rage, shouting toward Alex Ovechkin and the other Capitals players after John Carlson fired a late, high slap shot on Jaroslav Halak after the buzzer sounded. But some 20 hours later, the Isles forward sat calmly at his locker with an ear-to-ear smile. The anticipation of Monday night’s winner-take-all Game 7 in the nation’s capital was a reminder of why he started to play hockey.
“For a lot of guys, it’s probably the biggest game of our lives,” Okposo said. “This is what you do when you’re a kid in your driveway … you’re playing in Game 7 and you’re scoring a big goal. That’s what you dream about. That’s what you think about since you’re 5 years old. For everybody in here, it’s going to be exciting. We just have to make sure that we keep our emotions in check. Once that puck drops it’s another hockey game.”
The season is on the line Monday night with the winner earning the chance to take on the Rangers. The Islanders seemingly have even more to play for with the fate of Nassau Coliseum hockey also hanging in the balance before the team moves to Brooklyn next season. The matchup will mark the eighth Game 7 in franchise history, with the Isles posting a 3-4 record in their previous seven. The two clubs have met in a Game 7 once before, when Pat LaFontaine’s heroics in the Easter Epic powered the Isles past the Caps in quadruple overtime.
Terrific Game 6 performances by captain John Tavares (goal, assist), defensemen Johnny Boychuk (assist) and Nick Leddy (two assists) and goaltender Halak (38 saves) had the Isles following Jack Capuano’s credo that “your best players have to be your best players.” Boychuk, Leddy and Halak were acquired by general manager Garth Snow this year as much for their playoff pedigree as their talent. There is no better time for those three to earn their money as some of the few players in the locker room that have seen a Game 7 before.
“No matter what, you have to look at it as an elimination game. Whoever loses goes home and whoever wins goes forward and plays the Rangers,” said Boychuk, who has done a terrific job defending Ovechkin this series. “It’s one game, but it’s a very big game and it’s going to be an important game to get up for. Stay in the moment, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. That’s the main thing. Once you do, you might take a penalty and you could be going home because of that penalty.”
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