The New York Islanders lost a second consecutive close one to open their season 0-2 on the road with two fruitless visits to Metropolitan Division rivals. As with their season opener, neither side would call it a smooth effort, though the Caps’ suffocating approach with a one-goal lead was in effect in the third period.
Unlike opening night at the Garden, Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals lacked a frenetic exchange of third-period goals. Instead, the third was a slog as the Isles tried to penetrate the Capitals’ defense and, each time they did, Braden Holtby was up to the task.
They at least mounted good pressure with Thomas Greiss pulled for a sixth attacker, but shots were channeled wide or easily into Holtby’s reach.
Holtby made 21 saves, while Greiss made 26, including seven on the penalty kill as the Isles were shorthanded for a sixth of the game. Daniel Winnik’s pair of even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes made the difference.
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The Islanders did a good job diffusing the Capitals’ dangerous top six; it was Winnik they couldn’t contain.
In all seriousness, Winnik had a great tip redirection out of the air on his first goal, and his second was a series of smart plays. Converting a neutral-zone dump into something more dangerous, Winnik chopped at a bouncing puck to give himself time to use speed and turn Travis Hamonic around. That alone, created pressure, and it paid off when Hamonic blew a tire as he crossed to turn around.
Thus freed to go in all alone on Thomas Greiss, Winnik’s goal still required a good double deke.
But between those two goals was an Isles goal to tie it at 1-1 after some good power play work from the second unit. Ryan Strome sent a pass toward Cal Clutterbuck in the slot, but the puck went in off Brooks Orpik’s skate instead.
That came just two minutes after Winnik opened scoring, and things stayed tied 1-1 until 7:46 through the second period.
Barzal Beginning: Three minors
Mathew Barzal had a memorable debut, in a “ahh, rookie!” kind of way, with two penalties in the first five minutes of the game. The first was a slashing call, which had him match fellow 19-year-old Anthony Beauvillier’s start to the previous game.
The second call was while he was literally still in the box. With the gate open as his penalty expired, Barzal jumped the gun by playing the puck before he’d exited the box. Straight back to the penalty kill for the Isles, though their PK was good throughout the night.
Capuano on Barzal: "Never gonna forget that, will he? I told him it's still hockey, go out and have fun. He rebounded well after that."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 16, 2016
Once those jitters were put behind him, Barzal settled down and displayed his offensive talent on nice combos with Ryan Strome and with some good moves working the left wing on the power play.
He had a third minor penalty, tripping, midway through the third period, so before you shout to the twitterverse that he was benched and there’s no faith in the youth, etc., the reason his ice time looks sparse is he literally spent 10 percent of the game in the penalty box.
Whether from that combo, or the move back to wing, or just the general way of things, Strome had a nice overall showing and was much more effective than in the season-opener.
Officially Strome was credited with a team-high four shots on goal as of the end of the game, but I believe scorekeepers missed a fifth — and the best opportunity would’ve been one that never happened, as Anders Lee rushed a pass on a potential two-on-one that could’ve sent Strome in alone on Braden Holtby.
So the Islanders PK was mostly good, though a bounce or conversion here could have changed the story, as is so often the case. Still, to face the Capitals power play five times for 10 minutes total and not concede was an achievement.
Their own power play only had two opportunities, and the first one ended in a conversion before the top unit -- which drew the penalty — could get on the ice. So that unit’s grade is an incomplete, but Barzal handled himself well in his 1:02 of exposure there.
The first week of the season thus ends with the Islanders at zero points after two games, and a quick turnaround for the home opener tomorrow night against the Anaheim Ducks.
No pressure, boys.