The Islanders were coming off an emotional win against the Penguins the night before, in which they failed to hold a three-goal lead in the third period. Tonight, they decided they didn't want to worry about protecting a lead going into the third - they just waited until then to score all their goals.
Dennis Seidenberg came off IR, returning from his broken jaw and with a full face shield, while Adam Pelech took his spot on IR with an upper body injury. Alan Quine returned to the lineup, while Anthony Beauvillier noshed on some hot dogs. Jaroslav Halak, who hadn't started since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving against the Kings in LA, faced his brief former team in the Capitals. All-Star J.F. Berube backed up. Braden Holtby would stand in the home team's crease.
[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]
First Period: Pretty uneventful
The Islanders came out looking, well, not great, but not terrible either. After being hemmed in, they managed to carry out of the Capitals zone and Calvin de Haan drew an early penalty on Alex Ovechkin. They didn't accomplish much on it, except for a few sneaky good chances from Shane Prince and Ryan Strome.
The Caps certainly controlled play through the first ten minutes, except for the Isles power play. The Isles looked a bit confused in their own end, unable to keep up with Washington's passing and speed.
John Tavares probably recognized this, as he attempted to will a puck in shortly after the halfway mark. It seemed to wake up the team a smidgen, as they were able to generate a couple chances shortly thereafter.
Tavares took a penalty and gave the Captials' notoriously dangerous power play a chance to work. And good Lord are they scary. They held the puck in the Isles zone nearly the entire time of the penalty, and I don't think I'll ever know how Ovechkin, of all people, didn't capitalize on a chance right in front of the net AGAINST THE ISLANDERS, a team he regularly torches.
The Capitals broke in on Jaroslav Halak 2-on-0, forcing de Haan to take a penalty. Brett Connolly, one of the Caps on the 2-on-0, had another great chance in alone on the PP, and right as the period was ending, Evgeny Kuznetsov threw the puck at Justin Williams flying toward the net, sending it in off of his skate. Unfortunately for Washington, the clock hit 0.0 right as the puck reached the goal line. Quite the break for the Isles. I bet they take advantage of it! (EDIT: When I wrote this, I fully meant it to be a sarcastic foreshadowing of the bad things to come, but instead I'm clairvoyant.)
Second Period: Less uneventful
Holtby had to stop a shot that Nikolay Kulemin sent off the glass, and that ricocheted to his goal line. That's all you need to know about the beginning of the second.
Halak arguably kept the Isles in the game, including two saves in a row on great Washington chances, the first from Lars Eller (who I totally forgot was traded there) and Williams.
Tavares recovered a puck down low and fed Josh Bailey on the backhand. Bailey got a good shot off, getting whacked by Ovechkin in the process, but Holtby was there.
The ensuing PP was a bit better than their previous endeavor, both units being able to set up and get some shot attempts off. Jay Beagle broke away right as the man advantage came to a close. Thomas Hickey gave him a nudge, giving the Capitals another power play that the Isles killed.
Anders Lee caught Marcus Johansson with his stick in the mouth, putting the Isles on the klil yet again. Casey Cizikas had a good shorthanded chance that was gloved by Holtby, while Kuznetsov just missed over Halak seconds earlier. The period would end 0-0, with :08 seconds remaining on the penalty to Lee. You probably could have skipped reading until now, oops!
Third Period: There's all the events
Lack of discipline seemed to be the name of the game to this point, as Johnny Boychuk slapped a flying puck over the glass to put the Caps on the power play early on. Ovechkin rang one off the post, and later fired one at the chest of a challenging Halak, the puck trickling around behind him but staying out of the net. It had an extremely eerie feel, with the Capitals pressuring and just missing numerous times. It only felt like a matter of time before one popped through.
And it did, just for the good guys. Prince recovered Dmitry Orlov turnover forced by Cizikas, skated in alone, and slipped it past Holtby up high. Excellent break for the Isles, who had been flirting with danger a bit too much for comfort in regard to the offensive zone time granted to Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Niklas Backstrom and co.
But wait, there's more!: John Tavares took a pass from Bailey and got a shot off on Holtby, that Nelson grabbed and fired home to put the Isles up 2-0 less than three-and-a-half minutes after taking the lead. A huge development for a team that hadn't really earned the lead they held.
Call now to get a third Snuggie absolutely free!: Andrew Ladd dished it off to a moving Jason Chimera, who somehow found a way to flip his backhand shot short side over Holtby's shoulder.
Seidenberg de Haan (s/t @Doc_Ad on Tweeter), quiet otherwise in his first game back, took an interference penalty immediately after the third Islanders goal. If they were hoping to redeem blowing a three-goal lead in one period in the previous night's contest, this penalty kill would be a great way to get it started. They allowed the Capitals to set up, but nothing they sent to the net felt threatening. In fact, Cal Clutterbuck started the kill with a breakaway, and Ladd ended it with one.
Washington looked shocked and disheveled by the three quick Islanders goals. Aside from the two breakaways the let up on the power play, they allowed a handful of odd-man rushes to the Islanders at the end of the game, seemingly having checked out. Another lens through which to look at this, however: the Islanders were pressuring and playing aggressive and with skill and speed, all necessary elements for today's NHL. And Keith agrees:
Love how aggressive they are right now. Really pressuring the caps everywhere.— Rookie Example (@KeithLHHockey) December 2, 2016
Halak finished the game with a 38-save shutout, the 40th of his career, and kept the Islanders in it through the first two periods. Meanwhile, the team from Brooklyn actually has a three-game winning streak.
The Islanders take on the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday evening in Brooklyn at 6:00 p.m. I probably don't have to tell you this, and I really don't want to think about it, but it will be the return of Great Dane, longtime Islander, and wizard of the dark sloth arts Frans Nielsen. Should be an emotional evening. Hopefully they make it four in a row.