Matt Niskanen scored two third-period goals to break a 2-2 tie and send the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 win in Brooklyn, dropping the New York Islanders 11 points behind the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
With their victory the Capitals — who’ve won five in a row — hop out of that spot and into third place in the Metropolitan Division, dropping the Columbus Blue Jackets — who’ve won six in a row themselves — to that final wild card spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference haves, who are all well ahead of the eight have-nots. (Also streaking among the haves: Pittsburgh with six consecutive wins and Philadelphia with nine.)
At the bottom of that have-not heap? The Islanders, who are now 11-12-5 after 28 games.
Back and Forth and Down
The game started off physically with teams exchanging hits and facial scrubs amid a shooting gallery (14-12 in the first period) that briefly mitigated the Trotzian neutral zone clog. Brock Nelson got the best of a big hit attempt by Brooks Orpik and then opened scoring with a fantastic wrister to the top corner over Braden Holtby.
The Isles killed the first Capitals power play to get out of the first period hanging on to a 1-0 lead.
But Washington equalized early in the second period on a perfectly executed counterattack. Breaking out of their zone after a shot block, Jakub Vrana banked a pass to Lars Eller, who sent a low-angle pass to the top of the crease that met Brett Connolly, who eluded Thomas Hickey for the redirect past Jaroslav Halak.
The Caps then took the lead five minutes later with a quick power play goal. Vrana circled behind the net looking for the low man, but it slipped through to Justin Williams, who scored on Halak from higher in the slot.
The Isles were outplayed by far in the second period, being outshot 10-4, but a Nikolai Kulemin deflection of a Nick Leddy point shot sent them to the third period tied 2-2.
Once again the Isles gave up an early goal, Niskanen scoring to provide a 3-2 lead just 1:34 into the third.
Then the full Trotz slog was in effect, and the Islanders could muster no answer.
All doubt was removed with two minutes to go when the Capitals cashed in on another power play goal to make it 4-2. A difficult situation had become even worse when Travis Hamonic was sent to the box to create the power play, as he played the body on a bouncing puck against Daniel Winnik and got called for it.
The Isles had a meaningless second power play of the game when Tom Wilson was sent off with 50 seconds left. It was...meaningless but a better effort than their first one!
So there’s that.
They Say Things
“I like that. Brooks Orpik is one of those guys, when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins, teams like that, who always tries to take advantage of the littler guys. It was a nice play by Brock.”
>>Rick DiPietro on MSG+, after Nelson jumped up into Orpik to counteract the usual