The New York Islanders headed to the nation’s capital on Thursday to face the big bad Washington Capitals, who have won the President’s Trophy in each of the last two seasons. In a shocking turn of events, however, the Caps... uh... aren’t good anymore. (Evidence: Devante Smith-Pelly is a top-6 forward,)
Anyhow, the two teams played in a Metropolitan Division matchup, so it was a pretty big game.
The Islanders dominated play and led 38 to 19 in shots, but the Capitals won the game 4-3.
Full disclaimer: I’m a Capitals fan. I tried my best to be objective.
Just under six minutes into the game, the Caps struck first. Taylor Chorney, who is definitely, irrefutably, an NHL caliber defenseman, floated in a shot from the blue-line and scored. Islanders fan favorite Tom Wilson provided a screen in front of the net. Washington had an early 1-0 lead.
Let it be noted that with 13:03 remaining in the first period, Ovechkin stole the puck on a backcheck. Carry on.
Matt Barzal was the Isles’ best player for most of the first period. He had a couple rush opportunities, a pair of shots on goal, then drew a Brooks Orpik slashing penalty.
Off the next faceoff, Josh Bailey took a pass from the right point and found John Tavares on the left of the net. Tavares deflected it to Braden Holtby’s pads and he and Anders Lee whacked at the free puck a few times. Tavares was credited with the goal, his 12th of the season.
Lars Eller punched a slapshot through Jaroslav Halak’s five-hole later on in the period to give Washington a 2-1 advantage.
The Islanders recorded 14 shots on goal in the first 20 minute, while the Caps had 11.
Jason Chimera still has a close bond with many of his Capitals teammates:
Kuznetsov loves Edmonton. Why? "Jason Chimera is from here."— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) October 29, 2017
So Chimera, being a kind soul to his former team and all, took a hooking period in the second period to give the Capitals a power play. The best chance on the minor penalty was by the Islanders, as Casey Cizikas had a short-handed breakaway shut down by Holtby.
The Isles killed the penalty, then the Caps killed a penalty, then the Isles killed a penalty. New York did a good job of not letting the notoriously lethal Washington PP get established in the zone.
For two teams that play a slower, more structured, style of hockey, the next five minutes or so were played a hundred miles per hour. Dmitry Orlov screwed up a 3-on-1 for the Capitals, then Chimera went flying over Holtby as he pushed a deflection wide.
Washington tried to skate with six players, the officials didn’t approve, so they got to play with four players. The Islanders passed the puck all over the rink, Barzal and Bailey especially, and Lee scored for the Islanders to tie the game 2-2.
Immediately after, Alex Chiasson put the Capitals back in the lead with a wicked slapper from the right wing, his first goal as a Washingtonian. It was a rifle, but probably one that Halak wants back. After fighting the whole period to tie the score, the Islanders were only able to keep there for 12 seconds.
Through two periods, total shot attempts were 49 to 38
Ladd went to the box on a trip of Chorney, but the Capitals did nothing again. Soon after the Isles kill, Orlov committed an awful turnover, which gave Ladd an opportunity right in front of the net, but Holtby, being a very good goaltender, made a very good save.
Lee tied up the game off of a cool pivot-and-snipe in front of the D.C. net. The top-line of Lee-Tavares-Bailey was good once again in this one.
With 6:15 to play, Chorney committed perhaps the most egregious interference penalty in NHL history, spawning a New York man-up chance. The Islanders failed to score on that scoring chance, and the Caps made them pay.
Eller roared down the right wing with a little more than three minutes in the game and beat Halak on the glove side with a wrist-shot. That made the score 4-3, Caps.
With the net empty, the Isles didn’t find the net and the Capitals held on.
The Islanders really should have won this game, but didn’t. Shots were 17 to 2, New York, and 38 to 19 in the game. It seemed to mostly be a matter of Holtby outplaying Halak. That’s hockey, I guess.
Islanders player of the game
Anders Lee - Two goals!
Capitals player of the game
Lars Eller - It was a pretty pathetic showing by the Capitals top-6, but Eller showed a lot of energy from the 3C position. Aside from scoring two goals, the Dane drew a penalty and generally was Washington’s best offensive zone player.
Stat of the game
7-for-14 - That’s the proficiency of the Islanders power play in its last three games.
Tweet of the game
The Islanders will head back to Brooklyn for a home game against the Avalanche at 6 p.m. on Sunday.