TLDR: Capitals top Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, Ovechkin scores his 45th goal of the season, Jakub Vrana predicts the future, and a bizarre empty-netter (credited to Oshie) give the good guys their 3rd win in a row.
After a dominant 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, The Washington Capitals packed their bags, and took off for Long Island to take on former head coach Barry Trotz and his rejuvenated New York Islanders team. Last night, the Islanders ‘welcomed’ back former captain John Tavares, and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1. With the Islanders and Capitals, respectively, in first and second place in the Metropolitan division, a win by the Caps could once again tie the Isles with 81 points. The two teams have split their season meetings, with both winning on the road.
The Islanders, playing their second game in as many nights, started off deceivingly fast and refreshed. An early save by Caps goaltender Braden Holtby just seconds in kept the score at zero a piece. Less than three minutes into the period, a horrific turnover by Dmitry Orlov ended up in a walk-in-the-park goal by Tom Kuhnhackl, giving the Isles a 1-0 lead. Although the Capitals are not unfamiliar with early deficits, it is unfavorable to play a catch-up game. The Islanders were gifted the first power play of the game, due to an interference penalty by Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals penalty killers successfully kept the score 1-0. Caps forward Jakub Vrana continues to impress, creating opportunities in front of the net, and frustrating the opposition to no end. However, it was the strong Isles forecheck that frustrated the Capitals. It seemed as though every time the Capitals snagged the puck, the Isles quickly pick-pocketed it away from them. The refereeing at Nassau Coliseum definitely favored the home team. Despite playing a generally good first period, the Capitals need to stop giving up goals in the first five minutes of every period. Heading into the second period, the Caps were lucky to be down by just a single goal.
Once again, the refereeing bias reared its ugly head early in the second period. The Isles got away with some shenanigans, but it was Brett Connolly that would receive a two-minute minor penalty for tripping. Lucky for the Capitals, the Islanders ran out their power play time without a goal. If the Capitals are to win this game, it will be accomplished with accuracy and precision. Although there was no scoring to speak of in the middle frame, both teams had a number of good opportunities. Isles goaltender Thomas Greiss has been extremely impressive all season, stopping all 19 shots faced tonight, and has 5 wins in his last 7 starts (TheScore). Aside from the single goal in the first, Holtby has been very sharp, and the goal post was his friend tonight. Through two periods, the Capitals lead with 19 shots on goal, to the Isles 13.
During the second intermission, the Caps headed back to the drawing board. The Capitals played with an increased drive and desire to start off the third and final frame. Somehow, in a flurry of activity in front of the net, Jakub Vrana was able to sneak the puck past Greiss, finally giving the Caps the equalizer.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 2, 2019
The Capitals would earn their first power play of the night, thanks to an interference call against Isles captain Anders Lee. It didn’t take more than a couple of seconds with the extra man for Caps captain Alex Ovechkin to pot his 45th goal of the season, giving the good guys their first lead of the night.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 2, 2019
The Capitals went back on the power play after Anthony Beauvillier was called for goaltender interference, but play ended up as 4-on-4 for 1:46, as John Carlson went off to the box for high-sticking. For the first time all evening, play finally opened up, and the Caps ended up with the extra man for 4-on-3 play, and then the extra man, as Ovechkin was tripped by Ryan Pulock. The Caps were unable to score on the power play, but neither did the Islanders, and with under eight minutes left in regulation, the score remained 2-1. Carl Hagelin has been increasingly more visible as he plays more games with the Caps. Tonight, his speed and finesse immediately stood out. Even prior to having been promoted to the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, Hagelin’s grit and almost magnetic eagerness to the puck is evident and welcomed. In typical Barry Trotz fashion, with under two remaining, the Isles bench boss pulled the goalie for the extra attacker, and the Caps snagged an empty-net goal, courtesy of a failed clearing attempt by Islander Josh Bailey. T.J. Oshie would eventually be credited with the empty netter. With 18 games left, Braden Holtby would rack up his 18th win of the season, stopping 21 of 22 shots faced.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 2, 2019
The Capitals will walk out of Nassau Coliseum with two much-needed points, and are now tied for first place in the division. They will play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden for another Sunday matinee, this Sunday March 3rd.
FiCP’s Three Takeaways of the Game:
- Tonight’s win solidified our expectations that the Caps will be able to make a deep run in the post season.
- While we don’t like to play a come-back game, the Caps can and will do it.
- The Caps went ‘hard to the net, and stayed there’- J. Vrana
Kreda, A. (2019). John Tavares, Returning as an Enemy, Faces the Wrath of Islanders Fans. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/sports/hockey/john-tavares-islanders-leafs.html.
TheScore. (2019). Thomas Greiss: Stats, Age, News. Retrieved from https://www.thescore.com/nhl/players/1043.