The Capitals deserved to get at least a point out of this game, but with just 3:30 left in the game it did not look like that would happen. Then Troy Brouwer happened. A goal as he was left all alone at 16:31, then another to tie it at 2-2 at 19:34, and it's a whole new game.
Alex Ovechkin won it with one of his patented rushes in OT, as Josh Bailey went from part of the win to part of the loss in two minutes flat. Earlier, Bailey was a threat from the wing, assertive in the offensive zone, and his fake shot and backhand move through the slot gave the Islanders the 1-0 lead they rode for nearly two periods. But.
But with 30 seconds left he rushed an unpressured clear into the Islanders bench, which enabled one more draw in the Isles zone, which at 6-on-5 led to a lost faceoff, a shot from the point through traffic, one that found its way in. Then in OT, Bailey led what looked to be another threatening rush up ice, pulled up at the top of the faceoff circle -- and lost the handle on the puck. Ovechkin picked it up and went the other way. Travis Hamonic's gap was fine, forcing the shot, but Ovechkin's shot found Nabokov's five hole.
So it goes.
Hamonic to Arthur Staple of Newsday: "It’s cliche but it’s part of the process, learning how to win. Don’t know how many times we have to learn it the hard way."
As for the first 56 minutes: It's too easy to point to Josh Bailey's move to wing, or move next to Frans Nielsen, to explain his pretty good game, so just leave it at this: Josh Bailey had a pretty good game...until the end.
In all honesty, Nabokov (31 saves) was the reason the Islanders held the lead for so long. The Islanders faced two Capitals powerplays in the first and were outplayed and outshot 13-3. The second was better, and the third, after an early insurance goal, was conservative but not absurdly passive once the 2-0 lead was acquired.
But Brouwer was able to sneak undetected behind Steve Staios for the Capitals' first goal, and Frans Nielsen lost the faceoff in a pile-up for the deflected shot from the point on the tying goal. Overtime was over too quickly to even judge.
The emotional killer may have been when Kyle Okposo won the puck out of the Isles zone with the Capitals goalie pulled, but his pass was deflected, elevating up and caroming off of Michael Grabner's shinguard and safely to the Capitals' lone man back. What would have been an empty-net 2-on-1 or even 3-on-1.5 ended up being harmless. And costly.
Regulation win and/or bonus point slipped away.
Up 2-0: Matt Moulson's deflection of Steve Staios' shot in the second gave them the insurance goal they would need, and waste. For a moment it looked like Staios' goal, which carried all the shock and humor that implies. The 54th point of the season is a career high for Moulson, and P.A. Parenteau's 44th assist also obviously extends his career high.
I'm Happy! No, I'm Sad! I'm not one to jump from buildings or go bipolar based on a few mistakes or a few minutes of fate's turn, the way hockey often turns, so I'll just add both his positives and his negatives to the ledger and get ready for the next one. More philosophically and beyond the emotions that govern instant reactions, his responsibilities were lessened and he was able to come off the right wing to pose a threat.
The Umlaut: David Ullstrom was pretty active and provided an interesting, fundamentally sound other end to the Nielsen-Bailey combo.
Sans Nino: Matt Martin predictably made the fourth line better, and Marty Reasoner even generated a scoring chance -- after forcing a neutral zone turnover -- almost like he finally read his product label.
Nino Niederreiter should get worked back in as situations dictate -- couldn't help but notice another mostly quiet game from Okposo -- but overall I hope Capuano gives these general lines more than a one-game look. They were interesting, and frankly the search for secondary scoring demands some evaluations like this.
Evens: Every goal of the game was at even strength. The Isles were 0-3 with three shots on their powerplay, the Capitals were 0-4 with four shots on theirs.
Next up on this road trip: Philadelphia Thursday night, Boston Saturday afternoon. Simply for alleviating the pressure to come in those two difficult stops, preserving both points tonight would've really helped.