The Washington Capitals went into Thursday night’s contest with the New York Islanders trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. The matter of that result was in some doubt as the teams were tied with three minutes left in regulation, but Alex Ovechkin broke a 2-2 tie with 2:40 left to give the Caps a 3-2 win.
It was the Islanders getting off to a lead in the second minute of the contest. John Tavares walked the puck around the back of the Capitals’ net, and when he came out the other side he worked the puck to Travis Hamonic at the left point. Hamonic fired a one-timer that was blocked in front. Josn Bailey took an unsuccessful whack at the rebound, but Mikhail Grabovski stepped up and stuffed the puck past Braden Holtby to make it 1-0 just 1:55 into the game.
Washington tied the game less than six minutes later. The Islanders’ Ryan Strome fired a shot that went wide on the far side of Holtby and rattled around the boards out of the zone. Nicklas Backstrom caught up with the puck and skated down the right side and into the Islanders’ zone. Putting on the brakes at the bottom of the right wing circle, he found T.J. Oshie filling in behind him. Oshie one-timed Backstrom’s pass past goalie Jaroslav Halak to tie the game at the 7:28 mark.
Late in the second period, the Caps took their first lead. Dmitry Orlov poke checked the puck of the stick of Brock Nelson just inside the Caps’ blue line, then kicked the puck to himself to start a 3-on-2 break. Orlov fed Jason Chimera, who skated the puck up the right side. Chimera and Orlov worked a give-and-go, but Chimera received the return pass too deep and fanned on his shot. Chimera recovered the puck behind the Islander net and threw it in front. It slid under Halak and stopped in the blue paint where Andre Burakovsky was waiting. Burakovsky tapped it into the net, and it was 2-1, Caps with 1:18 left in the period.
New York tied the game in the sixth minute of the third period. The Isles did a good job of keeping possession of the puck in the Caps’ end, and it eventually found its way to the stick of Marek Zidlicky. With Tom Wilson hounding him from behind, Zidlicky skated the puck through the right wing circle, then left it in front where Josh Bailey found some room in a clot of Capitals to snap it past Holtby to make it 2-2 at the 5:38 mark.
That left things to Ovechkin in the late stages of the game, although it was the result of some hard work along the boards by Oshie and Backstrom. Oshie outdueled Calvin deHaan for the puck along the end wall and slid it to Backstrom along the right wing boards. Backstrom spied Ovechkin in the high slot and fed the puck to him for a one-timer. Red light…game, Capitals winning by a 3-2 margin.
-- The Capitals had just 43 shot attempts for the game, Ovechkin had ten of them (five on goal, one goal).
-- The Islanders had 71 shot attempts. They had a whopping 58-34 edge in shot attempts at 5-on-5 (that would be a Corsi-for of 37.0 percent for the Caps).
-- T.J. Oshie extended his points streak to four games with his goal. It was his first two-point game since January 10th.
-- Andre Burakovsky’s goal made it five games in a row with points, four straight with a goal. He is 5-6-11 in his last eight games.
-- Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists, extending his points streak to five games (4-3-7).
-- The Caps had almost as many blocks of Islanders shots (33) as they had their own shot attempts (38). Fifteen of the 18 skaters recorded at least one blocked shot. Matt Niskanen, T.J. Oshie, and Nate Schmidt each had four to lead the club.
-- With an assist in this game, Dmitry Orlov is within a point (4-14-18) of his career high in points (3-16-19) set in his rookie season in 2011-2012.
-- The 37.0 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 was the second worst such performance of the season for the Caps, surpassed only by a 36.6 percent result in the Caps’ 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 14th (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
-- Maybe it’s just the Islanders. The teams split four power plays, the first time the Caps and their opponent each managed just a pair of man advantages in a contest since January 7th…when the Caps beat the Islanders, 4-1.
-- After a string of iffy performances, Braden Holtby was solid in goal. He allowed 12 goals on 105 shots in his last four appearances (.886 save percentage), but he stopped 24 of 26 shots against the Isles (.923).
In the end…
It was a solid, workmanlike effort by the Caps. Not dazzling, but that was not needed or called for. A win was. And the Caps managed that to avoid losing their third consecutive game for the first time this season (Washington remains the only team in the league not to have lost consecutive games in regulation time). They got scoring from players who came into and left the game on hot streaks, and they reminded the Islanders, bidding to become the Caps’ closest pursuers in the Metropolitan Division, that there is still a substantial gap between these two teams. They now have an opportunity to send a similar reminder to another Metropolitan Division pursuer on Saturday when they head to Newark to face the New Jersey Devils.