After a quiet game by his standards, Alex Ovechkin had one of those "he can change the game by himself" moments, in OT, to go end-to-end for the game winner that landed him on the night's highlight reels. What happened before then had a decidedly Islanders 2011 feel: They withstood an early barrage of Capitals chances, converted one of a surprising number of Capitals turnovers, and came very, very close to stealing a close game in D.C., despite failing to cash in on any of four powerplay opportunities. And of course, they suffered an injury (Micheal Haley, blocked shot).
The heartbreaker is Nathan Lawson was 48 seconds away from his first NHL shutout. With the goalie pulled, Brooks Laich's goal -- he was a catalyst in the comeback win on Long Island a few nights ago -- erased those shutout dreams and sent it to overtime. Ovechkin's tally 1:55 into OT took the rest of the air out of the balloon.
We've been joking about the "scapwagon" around here, as in who draws the majority of fan ire (rational or otherwise) on any given night -- and who would get it now that Schremp is gone. Cue the MS Paint for last night's in-the-moment recipients:
courtesy: the Mighty Quinn
(I think the Grabner one must be a reference to him not being able to get it out on that final shift in regulation -- a mistake, but one that can happen. He didn't take the ideal angle on getting to it and fishing it off the boards. And Lawson because...he shouldn't have come so close to a shutout and then had the nerve to give up a winning goal to Ovechkin. Travis Hamonic escaped the wagon despite his getting stuck deep in the Caps zone just before Ovechkin got the puck.)
- The fun of small samples: John Carlson's turnover that led to the Isles goal was baaaad. That makes him look bad in both games of this home-and-home set. Yet it sounds like he's had a very nice year for the Caps, which reminds me how a couple of games of "saw him" can mean nothing. I think about this way too much when I think about scouts watching prospects in random games and random tournaments.
- Ovechkin made Frans Nielsen look silly on the game-winning rush, which is rare. I guess I'll forgive him a mistake when it's Ovi-8 with a full head of steam, but it pained these eyes to see.
- As for Lawson, when you've stopped 40 shots in an NHL game and conceded only two -- one on an All-Star rush -- you've done well.
- I don't know how the scoring chance data broke down, but it looked like John Tavares, Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau were creating a lot of them, even without their goal. The scorer had the trio with 14 of the Islanders' 29 shots.
- Speaking of those three -- and adding Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald: Although the powerplay failed, I liked the look of it tonight. Good puck movement trying to stretch the Caps PKers, and good rotation to keep from being too predictable. I'm among those who prefer not to have forwards at the point, but Okposo and Parenteau did well with the puck rotating on either side of MacDonald.
- That Tavares doorstep chance on the powerplay with six minutes left might have been the game. That goes in, maybe the Caps don't come back. Shoulda woulda coulda.
- Justin DiBenedetto's NHL debut: I noted how he's been said to have "Jon Sim qualities" -- knowing the expected quips that come from that comparison -- but Jack Capuano likes his willingness to go to the net and mix it up. He certainly mixed it up in his first NHL game. The Caps radio announcers were noting his physicality by the end of the second period. He was only credited with two hits (Martin recorded four), but he did his job, from what I saw.
- Speaking of hits: The scorers recorded 26 for the Caps, just 12 for the Isles. This is why that stat means between nil and zero...and yet we look it up anyway. In 8:27 of TOI in his Thrashers debut, Rob Schremp was credited with two hits, one shot, and one faceoff loss. He was wearing #13.
- Did Jack Hillen lay a classic hip check on Mike Knuble? Why yes, yes he did. (Third period, Isles PK. Hit of the Night according to ESPN's accidental hockey coverage.)
- Ice Time Gawking: Aside from Haley, who left with an injury after only 3:50 TOI, Zenon Konopka actually had the low total tonight with 8:13. Matt Martin had 8:24 and Mark Katic had 9:52. MacDonald led the Isles with a gargantuan 28:42 (including 5:05 on the PP).
- FIG Winner: I believe it goes to martyInd, a repeat winner, who nailed the scorer and both assists.
The Islanders were outshot liberally throughout (42-29, 38-22 at even strength). Lawson made many quality saves, and benefited from some luck (pucks squirting just wide at times). It sucks how this one ended when they were so close to stealing a win, but ultimately this was a fair result. Lawson's postgame quote is heartfelt and I totally get the sentiment...:
"It's extremely disappointing to lose it in the last 47 seconds," Lawson said. "We battled so hard for 59 minutes. To come away with just one point is unacceptable."
...but really it could have been worse, and the game could have turned against the Isles earlier. It turned on some missed opportunities, but the Islanders were a little fortunate to be so close to a 1-0 win.
I saw some comments that the Islanders need to learn how to "close out" games like this, but to my eyes the reality is: 1) They have closed games like this -- during their winning run, and 2) When you are the undermanned team, you are at risk of losing at any point during the game. You spend your 60 minutes trying to dodge that likelihood. If you are fortunate enough to be in the lead late in a close game, that does not change the fact that you are always at risk of conceding a goal, because it's hockey -- and worse, because you happen to be the weaker team.
In other words, there is no character lesson to be learned from this, other than close games can turn at any moment. Sometimes they turn enough in your favor that you go 7-3-0. Sometimes they turn so that you lose four one-goal games in a row.
We do this again, back-to-back, at home
Tuesday Wednesday night [ed. Sorry, having a devil of a time remembering what day it is lately] to the Wild. The Wild are wild I tell you! Just wild!