It is not so much that the Washington Capitals lost to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night at Verizon Center, 4-3 in overtime, but how they did it. Holding a 3-1 lead mid-way through the third period, the Caps allowed two goals in a space of less than two minutes to let the Islanders back into the game, then allowing the Islanders to escape with the win on a goal by Thomas Hickey in the extra frame.
It had the look of a good night for Washington in the first period when Alex Ovechkin scored his 46th goal of the season. When Marcus Johansson tied up Brock Nelson on a faceoff, T.J. Oshie came in and chipped the puck back to Ovechkin at the top of the right wing circle. Ovechkin circled around the dot and from the right wing wall snapped a shot at the Islander net that beat Christopher Gibson cleanly to start the scoring.
That would be all for the first period scoring, and it would be the Islanders starting the second period on a high note, John Tavares one-timing a pass from Hickey off the glove of goalie Braden Holtby and into the top corner of the net to make it 1-1, 13:43 into the period. The teams went to the third period tied, but T.J. Oshie put the Caps back in front, taking a flubbed pass from Johansson and from the right wing circle snapping the puck past Gibson’s blocker just 1:15 into the period.
Ovechkin scored his second of the game, finishing off a 3-on-1 break. Johansson skated the puck in deep on the left side, then fed Oshie filling in down the middle. Oshie worked his way around Scott Mayfield, then backhanded a pass to Ovechkin at the doorstep to Gibson’s left. Ovechkin had only to guide the puck into the open side of the net past Gibson’s glove, and it was 3-1 at the 6:56 mark.
Then the Caps let it get away from them. Kyle Okposo got the Islanders within a goal when he came into the play late, taking advantage of Holtby’s inability to play the puck off the end wall, fanning on his attempt to chip it to the corner. Okposo found the puck on his stick instead and had nothing but net to shoot at, making it 3-2, 8:40 into the period.
Less than two minutes later, it was tied. Ryan Strome followed up his own chip deep into the Caps’ zone to send the puck around the end boards to Nick Leddy at the left point. Leddy fired a shot that Anders Lee redirected past Holtby from the top of the crease, and it was 3-3 at the 10:25 mark.
There would be no more scoring in regulation, but mid-way through the overtime, the Islanders finished off their comeback. John Tavares started the play skating the puck down the right side into the Caps’ zone with the teams 3-on-3. He stopped in the right wing circle and fired a shot that was turned aside by Holtby. He followed up the rebound, though, and slid the puck to Thomas Hickey in the low slot. Hickey snapped the puck past Holtby’s glove, and the Islanders had the 4-3 win 2:13 into the overtime.
-- The jury-rigged first line of Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson, and T.J. Oshie came to play. The combined for all three goals (Ovechkin with two, and Oshie) and five of the six assists, three of them by Johansson.
-- Those three assists by Johansson are a season high and ties a career high set on October 3, 2013, in a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames.\
-- For Ovechkin it was his seventh multi-goal game of the season and first since February 18th in against these same Islanders (a 3-2 win). His seven multi-goal games is tied for third in the league, behind Jamie Benn and Johnny Gaudreau, each with eight.
-- Does Evgeny Kuznetsov listen to the post-game show on Comcast Sports Net? After the last game, he was called out on the show for not shooting enough. Well, how does nine shots on goal sound? It is a career high. It is also the first time a Capital recorded nine or more shots in a game without scoring a goal since Alex Ovechkin failed to hit the back of the net on ten shots in the Caps’ 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on February 16th (Ovechkin has gone 0-for-9 or more 26 times in his career).
-- The 23 Islander shots that the Caps blocked was not a season high, but it did make the top-ten, tied for the eighth highest number of blocked shots this season. The season high is 33 blocked shots against, yes, the Islanders in a 3-2 win on February 4th.
-- Tom Wilson had a typically rugged game – seven hits, two blocked shots, a pair of minor penalties. Points might have been helpful, though, he was one of the nine forwards who did not have one in this game. He did have four shots on goal, though. Only once this season did he have more – six (and a goal) in a 4-1 win over Vancouver on January 14th.
-- The fourth line had a light night. Mike Richards skated less than seven minutes; Michael Latta had less than five (he had seven minutes in penalties).
-- John Carlson had a bit of an odd night. He finished the game with almost 23 minutes of ice time, but the only marks on his line of the score sheet were on shot attempt (a shot on goal) and one giveaway. He did have an assist on the Oshie goal.
-- Speaking of Oshie, not only did he have a three-point night, his fourth game as a Cap with three or more, but he led the team with four blocked shots and had three takeaways.
-- The Caps won the shot attempts battle at 5-on-5, 54-49. It was even more pronounced as the game wore on; the Caps won the last two periods and overtime by a 35-26 margin. It was the sixth straight home game that the Caps were over 50 percent on Corsi-for at fives and the fourth straight game that they were over 55 percent.
In the end…
One could compose a list of who really did not seem to come to play in this game, but the much shorter list is who did – the first line. The silence of the bottom nine forwards was loud, with the exception of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had almost half of the total shots on goal the bottom nine produced (nine of 19). And, it was not goalie Braden Holtby’s best game, either. It looked as if that whole “all time season wins” thing was in his head at times. But with all that, the most disturbing thing was letting the game get away when the Caps had a two-goal lead with 12 minutes left in regulation. It just gives folks more ammunition to argue that this Caps team is not the one we saw in the first 50 games and is one that will struggle to get out of the first round of the post season.