The New York Islanders had the chance to sweep* a Metropolitan Division home-and-home for the second time in two weeks, but this time they settled for a split* as they petered out to a 5-2 loss in Washington.
*Yeah, shootout/OT standings points kind of asterisk the hell out of all traditional vocabulary here.
The Islanders were industrious enough to erase a 2-0 lead by the first intermission, but it turns out that brief revival was the mirage on this night. Outside of the opening five minutes or so, the Capitals had the better of play and deserved the two clean points. Few Islanders were sharp, including Chad Johnson, who gave up four goals on 26 shots.
First Period: Bullet Dodged
The Islanders again started the game with control of play, to the utter frustration of Caps coach Barry Trotz, who called timeout just five minutes in. That seemed to settle the Caps or at least refocus them on actually getting the puck into the Isles zone for more than brief icing appearances. Things soon turned Washington's way.
The Isles penalty kill was again victimized for the first goal of the game, Matt Niskanen sending a shot from the point that deflected up over after grazing Nikolay Kulemin and going through more bodies. Though the Isles controlled the bulk of play, the Capitals made it 2-0 on a counterattack after Lubomir Visnovsky pinched. Markus Johansson backed up Brian Strait (in for Johnny Boychuk) just enough to send a long shot through his body and up over Johnson's blocker.
Things nearly got chaotic when Niskanen laid out Brock Nelson with a hip check at the blueline. Half the players on the ice focused on doing the "hey you can't do that to our pledges / hey yes we can" drill, while the other half exchanged scoring chances at both ends. But Johnson smothered the puck, the dust settled, and things got back to business.
John Tavares got one back, making no doubt on a rebound of a Nick Leddy shot with 1:02 left in the period.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Matt Martin and Tom Wilson fought, and the Isles kept their fourth line out there with Anders Lee in Martin's place. That was fortunate because after some good forechecking it was Lee's knee that deflected in the tying goal off of Travis Hamonic's drive.
Second Period: Bullet Connects
If those two late goals gave the Islanders the reprieve they needed, they didn't use it.
Brock Nelson's "hooking" penalty against Evgeni Kuznetsov was another puzzling example of recent NHL officiating. The Isles survived that PK and even created a couple of good scoring chances, one from Cal Clutterbuck and another post from Ryan Strome that echoed throughout the building.
When the Islanders got a power play of their own, they didn't pose much threat. Kyle Okposo memorably whiffed hard-and-tumbling on a one-timer feed from Lubomir Visnovsky. His miss led to a Capitals clear, and the Isles never truly got set up after that.
Alex Ovechkin struck again to give the Capitals the lead. After Wilson got by Calvin de Haan enough to forward the puck to Ovechkin, the Capitals captain made no doubt with another quick laser to the far top corner over Johnson's blocker.
Third Period: Bullet Takes Out Vis, Caps Take Series
The Capitals added an insurance goal at 5:56 of the third when Kuznetsov beat Johnson -- stop me if you've heard this before -- blocker side after Travis Hamonic was left hobbling and screening thanks to a Troy Brouwer shot off his skate. Hamonic would walk it off, but the damage for this game was done.
Of more pressing concern, Visnovsky did not return for the third period. No word other than "upper body" from the team.
Down by two goals, the Isles wasted another power play midway through the period after Niskanen kneed Mikhail Grabovski. It's a shame not to make someone pay for an infraction like that, but "shame" has characterized the Isles special teams most of this season.
This one simply never had the feel that the Islanders would reassert the control they've shown throughout most of this incredibly hot November run. Even that modern-NHL hope of getting a consolation point via the regulation tie faded down the stretch. Down two late, they pulled Johnson for a sixth attacker and didn't even get a sniff of the Capitals' zone before Joel Ward finished things with an empty netter.
* * *
So, winning streak ends at five, and the Capitals take this home-and-home series by a point. No rest for either team though: The Caps move on to Toronto, while the Isles face the Devils at the Coliseum Saturday night.