The Caps scored first, fell behind, fell behind further, pulled their goalie, and looked to be playing out the string before heading on their eight-day bye/All-Star Game break. But then, things happened. In the end, it would be one of the most bizarre wins in a season full of them, the Caps coming from three goals down to start the third period to win, 6-4.
The teams played cautiously to open things, but it would be the Caps who were beneficiaries of the game’s first power play, the Islanders’ Jordan Eberle sent off for tripping Michal Kempny at the 6:05 mark. The referees quickly evened things up, giving hints that this would be more of a “touch” hockey game, sending Alex Ovechkin off for hooking at 6:40.
Neither team could score on their respective power plays or the 4-on-4 that overlapped, but the Caps did open the scoring. Alex Ovechkin put the Caps on top, taking a superb long lead pass from Nicklas Backstrom, skating into the New York zone on a semi-break, and wristing the puck past goalie Semyon Varlamov’s blocker at the 10:22 mark. It was Ovechkin’s 690th career goal, tying Mario Lemieux for tenth in NHL history.
The Islanders appeared to score less than three minutes later on a Brock Nelson goal, but the Caps challenged the play for being offside. The goal call was confirmed, and the Caps were charged with a delay-of-game penalty for losing the challenge. The Caps then went two men short when Carl Hagelin was called for interference at the 6:26 mark.
The Caps killed both penalties, but then they promptly gave up the go-ahead goal on a fluky redirect off the skate of Radko Gudas, Casey Cizikas getting credit for the goal 15:49 into the period. That closed the scoring for the first period.
-- The teams finished the period tied in shots on goal with 11 apiece, and in shot attempts with 17 apiece.
-- The teams also split 22 faceoffs with 11 wins apiece.
-- T.J. Oshie led the team with three shots on goal and four shot attempts.
The Caps started the period slowly, lucky to have kept the game a one-goal deficit. They caught a break when Tom Wilson hit Casey Cizikas playing the puck, the Islanders’ Matt Martin took exception, and then Radko Gudas came to Wilson’s defense. Gudas was sent off for roughing, but Martin was docked a roughing and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to put the Caps on a power play.
Washington did not convert its man advantage chance, and they would take the next turn on the penalty kill, Brendan Leipsic going off for roughing at 8:27 of the period. The Islanders did what the Caps could not, converting the power play on a Jordan Eberle goal 9:31 into the period to give the home team a 3-1 lead.
Washington was awarded their third power play of the game at the 11:11 mark when Leo Komarov was hit with a boarding penalty. The Caps did not score and barely threatened, the Islanders escaping with their two-goal lead intact. The Caps got another chance to go a man up when Nick Leddy was banished for slashing at the 14:37 mark. The Caps once more failed to take advantage, and it burned them when the Islanders converted an odd-man rush at the other end after the penalty expired, Devon Toews finishing the play to make it 4-1, Islanders, 17:25 into the period. That would, mercifully, end the scoring for the second period.
-- The Islanders had an 11-8 edge in shots on goal for the period, but the Caps had a 22-13 advantage in shot attempts.
-- John Carlson had 17:17 in ice time through two periods, almost three minutes more than the next Capital (Dmitry Orlov: 14:36).
-- Carlson led the team in shot on goal (five) and was tied in shot attempts (six, with Ovechkin) through 40 minutes.
The Caps opened the period with Ilya Samsonov replacing Braden Holtby in goal. Whether that was motivation or not, it was the Caps who scored first, Richard Panik feeding the puck to the top of the crease from the goal line to Carl Hagelin, who held off Ross Johnston long enough to slide the puck past Varlamov to make it 4-1, 2:33 into the period to make it a 4-2 game.
Ovechkin scored his second of the game when he undressed Islander defenseman Scott Mayfield, curling the puck around him and then circling to the net. As he was tumbling to the ice he managed to get what looked to be a centering pass to Garnet Hathaway, but the puck was redirected into the net by Islander Ryan Pulock, and it was 4-3, 5:18 into the period.
The Caps came all the way back when Dmitry Orlov unloaded a bomb from the left point that was redirected by Tom Wilson and slithered through Varlamov at the 14:32 mark to make it 4-4. And then, just 2:58 later, Jakub Vrana darted in from the left point and snapped a shot past Varlamov’s blocker to put the Caps on top for the first time since the 14th minute of the first period, 5-4.
The Islanders pulled Varlamov late, to no avail. Ovechkin completed the hat trick, taking a pass from T.J. Oshie, pulling it around an Islander defender, and firing it from the neutral zone into the empty net to make it 6-4 at the 19:04 mark. That would be more than enough for the Caps to complete the unthinkable, coming back with five unanswered goals after trailing, 4-1, after two period to go into the break with a 6-4 win.
-- Ovechkin’s second goal of the contest made it three-straight multi-goal games, the first time in his career he accomplished that feat.
-- Ovechkin’s three goals allowed him to pass Mario Lenieux for tenth place on the all-time NHL goal scoring list and tied him with Steve Yzerman for ninth place. Ovechkin also tied Yzerman for second place in career goals scored for one franchise (692), trailing only Gordie Howe (786 for Detroit).
-- The hat trick was Ovechkin’s 26th career hat trick, tying him with Maurice Richard for eighth-most in NHL history. He trails Marcel Dionne and Bobby Hull, tied with 28 hat tricks for sixth place, by two.
-- Tom Wilson’s goal broke a seven-game streak without a goal.
-- Ilya Samsonov stopped all seven shots he faced in the third period to record the win in relief of Braden Holtby. He is now 10-0-0, 1.60, .941 (one no-decision) in his last 11 appearances.
-- John Carlson had a pair of assists to record his 19th multi-point game this season, tied with Auston Matthews for sixth-most in the league and most among defensemen. The two points gave Carlson 102 career multi-point games, tied with Scott Stevens for most by a defenseman in Caps history.
-- Jakub Vrana scored the game-winning goal, extending his points streak to a career-high eight games (6-2-8).
-- The Caps finished with a 30-29 edge in shots on goal and a 63-40 advantage in shot attempts.
-- Dmitry Orlov had a pair of assists to record his first multi-point game on the road this season and first multi-point game not against Tampa Bay, who he victimized twice at Capital One Arena.
-- Nick Jensen had an assist, breaking a 40-game streak without a point.
In the end…
Stop doing this, Caps! Just pound teams and put them out of THEIR misery instead of playing like wet burlap for two periods and then turning it on to put us out of OUR misery. This game was “The Full Capitals Experience.” Score first, suck for the next 35 minutes, look like mites on their own power play, fall hopelessly behind, and then just go, “ah, f*ck it…let’s just go win.” They can do this against some teams in the regular season, but it is not a sustainable recipe for success when the weather turns warmer.
But still…this was a helluva ride, wasn’t it?