Well, not quite.
When Backstrom scored at the 7:09 mark of the third period, the Caps drew even in a game in which they played reasonably well. There were all those Islander shots on goal, but goalie Philipp Grubauer – making his first NHL start – stopped all but two of them. There were only two penalties taken by the Caps, and the Caps killed both of those. On the other side of the special teams ledger, the Caps scored on their only power play opportunity. And now, with still more than half of the third period to play, the Caps looked poised to take control of the game.
That is, until they lost control.
Less than two minutes after the Backstrom goal, Mike Ribeiro took a hi-sticking call to put the Islanders on the power play. Ribeiro was not happy with the call. He took the opportunity to pay homage to Washington Nationals spring training with a healthy swing of his stick and some jawing at the official that might have been reminiscent of Davey Johnson barking at an umpire. It earned Ribeiro an extra two minutes.
John Tavares scored on the back half of that power play to put the Islanders back in the lead. Then Jeff Schultz took his own double minor penalty, this for high sticking Andy MacDonald. Eight seconds later, Tavares had another goal, and the competitive portion of the afternoon was over. The Islanders added insult to injury with a shorthanded goal by Franz Nielsen with four minutes left, and the scoring was complete – Islanders 5 – Caps 2.
-- We warned in the pre-game prognosto that the Captain had to lead by example in a game in which focus could be an issue. He didn’t. Ovechkin tried a curl and drag just over his own blue line, had his pocket picked by Colin McDonald, and a few strides later Casey Cizikas was giving the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the second period. In the third period he could not keep the puck in the offensive zone along the wall on a power play, and a few seconds later Franz Nielsen potted a short-handed goal to drive a stake into the Caps’ chances to come back. No points, two giveaways, two goals scored against on miscues.
-- We have beaten this one to death, but… 1-9-1. That is now the Caps’ record when allowing opponent’s four or more power plays. When the Caps allowed the Islanders four power plays in the third period, they were doomed. It broke a streak in which the Caps held opponents to three or fewer power plays over six straight games over which they were 5-1-0.
-- The record will say that Philipp Grubauer allowed five goals on 45 shots, but goaltending was not the problem here. The Islanders had almost as many shots on goal on their power play (19) as the Caps had at even strength (21). This team really needs to stay out of the box. They just are not very good at killing penalties.
-- Part of the problem might have been the Caps having to play almost the entire game with only five defensemen. John Erskine went out after only two shifts with an “upper-body injury.”
-- OK, about that whole top line thing. Alex Ovechkin, Mike Ribeiro, and Matt Hendricks had no points and three shots on goal at even strength. For heaven’s sake, Joey Crabb had three shots on goal at even strength.
-- Someday, Jason Chimera will score a goal. It really is not for lack of effort or getting shots to the net. Chimera had three more shots on goal (the tenth time in 23 games he has had at least three shots on goal in a game), but once more came up empty.
-- Karl Alzner recorded an assist on Nicklas Backstrom’s goal in the third period. It was his first helper of the season, making it the latest he has gone into a season (23 games) before recording his first assist. We went his first 15 games in the 2010-2011 season before getting his first.
-- Mike Ribeiro has taken six minor penalties this season. Half of them are for unsportsmanlike conduct. He also has a pair of ten minute misconducts on his rap sheet.
-- The line of Mathieu Perreault, Joey Crabb, and Wojtek Wolski certainly was an odd one. Perreault’s goal was scored on a power play, but at even strength he and his line mates had only four shots on goal, three of them by Joey Crabb, none by Wolski.
-- The Caps were 7-1-0 in their last eight games at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before the loss today.
In the end, it is two points that the Caps needed, should have had, and let get away. With Carolina beating New Jersey this evening, the Caps are now eight points out of the Southeast Division lead. It is not as if the Caps played poorly today, they did not, at least not as poorly as the final score might suggest. They just had a few lapses that cost them, especially in the third period. But that hardly matters. What matters is what the scoreboard says and how that ends up reflected in the standings. And that does look pretty poor.