Tuesday, March 16, 2021

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 29: Capitals 3 - Islanders 1

When the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders last met, the Caps were undefeated in regulation (5-0-3) and coming off a win over the Islanders. The Isles were stuck at 3-3-0 and had yet to win a game on the road. The Caps won the rematch on January 28th, 6-3, to go 6-0-3, while the Isles slipped to 3-4-0.  Fast forward to Tuesday night when the Caps and Islanders renewed their rivalry with Isles sporting a nine-game winning streak and an 11-0-1 record in their last 12 games, good enough to position them in first place in the East Division.  The Caps were right on their heels, two standings points back and carrying a five-game winning streak and 10-1-1 record in their previous dozen games into the matchup at Capital One Arena.  The term “big game” might be a bit of a stretch at the half-way point of the season, but it if is, it is not by much for these two teams.

The Caps were dominated early, but they slowly tilted the ice and choked off what little offense the Isles could muster as the game wore on, besting the Islanders, 3-1, to take over first place in the East Division.

First Period

New York came out aggressively, building a 15-5 edge in shot attempts early, and the pressure ended up putting the Caps a man short when Justin Schultz went to the penalty box at 11:03 for hooking.  Washington allowed one power play shot on goal but kept the Islanders off the scoreboard on their first power play.  It would be the most exciting development for the Caps in the first period, one that ended scoreless despite the Islander dominance.

-- New York outshot the Caps, 11-7, and out-attempted them, 23-13.

-- No Capital had more than one shot on goal in the period; Alex Ovechkin led the squad with three shot attempts.

-- Brenden Dillon and Ovechkin led the team with three credited hits apiece.

-- Dmitry Orlov had four blocked shots; John Carlson had three.

Second Period

It was Washington’s turn to get the early power play when Casey Cizikas was sent off for tripping at 3:19 of the period. The Caps failed to convert, though, going the full two minutes without a shot on goal.

Washington drew first blood when Evgeny Kuznetsov broke in alone on goalie Semyon Varlamov, deked him to the ice, slid the puck under his stick in what looked like a sure goal.  But the puck hit the far post, rebounding out behind Varlamov, and T.J. Oshie followed it up to bat it into the back of the net to make it 1-0, Caps, 10:36 into the middle period.

The Caps went to the power play three minutes later, Mathew Barzal going off for cross-checking at 13:34 of the period.  Alex Ovechkin made the Isles pay, taking a pass from Justin Schultz in the left wing circle for a one-timer that beat Varlamov over his blocker on the near side, giving the Caps a 2-0 lead 15:24 into the period.  That would be how the teams went to the second intermission.

-- Washington outshot New York, 7-4, in the period and out-attempted them, 22-13.

-- Four Caps had two shots on goal through two periods (Nick Jensen, Alex Ovechkin, Garnet Hathaway, and Evgeny Kuznetsov); Ovechkin led the team with seven shot attempts through 40 minutes.

-- Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps in ice time through two periods (14:25).

Third Period

The Caps extended their lead in the first minute of the third period when Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana executed a nifty give-and-go.  From below the goal line, Backstrom fed Vrana along the right wing wall.  Vrana looked off the Islander defense as Backstrom headed for the top of the crease, then fed Backstrom for a redirect past the right pad of Varlamov to make it 3-0, just 28 seconds into the period.

The Islanders went to a power play three minutes into the period when Vrana was whistled for holding.  The visitors converted on an Oliver Wahlstrom shot from the slot that looked to be redirected by Richard Panik’s stick past goalie Ilya Samsonov’s blocker at the 4:17 mark.

Washington had their chance to restore the three-goal lead when Sebastian Aho took a seat in the penalty box for holding 4:32 into the period. The Caps were unable to convert and hung on to their two-goal lead.

The Islanders pulled Varlamov late, but the Caps held them off and skated into the night with the 3-1 win.

Other stuff…

-- Alex Ovechkin was given an assist on the T.J. Oshie goal, giving him 1,300 career points.  He is the 35th player in NHL history to hit that mark.  Only Joe Thornton among active players has more career points (1,521).

-- Ovechkin’s second period power play goal was his 718th career goal, breaking a tie with Phil Esposito for sixth-place all time.  It was his 264th power play goal, bringing him to within one of Brett Hull for second-place all-time.

-- The Caps took over first place in the East Division on the basis of a tie-breaker (fewer games played).

-- Washington allowed 11 shots on goal in the first period, only 11 over the last 40 minutes. The teams finished at 22 shots apiece, the Islanders out-attempting the Caps, 56-48.

-- Garnet Hathaway, John Carlson, and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Caps with three shots on goal apiece; Alex Ovechkin had eight shot attempts.

-- Trevor van Riemsdyk did not record a shot attempt, but he skated only three shifts and 51 seconds of ice time, he being the seventh defenseman in the lineup.

-- The Caps were smoked in the faceoff circle, winning only 15 of 41 draws.  Richard Panik was the only Capital at 50 percent or better (1-for-1).

-- Dmitry Orlov finished with six blocked shots and four takeaways, both team highs.

-- Alex Ovechkin and Nic Dowd each finished with four credited hits.

-- This was Ilya Samsonov’s first game played on home ice this season. He is undefeated in regulation overall, this win extending his record to 6-0-1 (one no decision), 2.54, .907.

In the end…

This might have been the best win of the season to date for the Caps, who ended the Islanders’ winning and points streak, doing so by making things more difficult for the Islanders as the game wore on.  The Caps get a welcome two days off to regroup and refocus before they host the New York Rangers in a back-to-back this weekend.  But for now, enjoy this one.