Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson, and Tom Kuhnhackl drove the offense today, scoring the Islanders’ four goals in Washington against the Capitals to close out 2019. At this time in the first season fully in the 10s, the 2010-11 season, the Islanders were 11-19-6. Today, they sit at 25-10-3, second in the Metropolitan division. Here’s to a great 2020!
Halfway through the first, the Islanders were already up 2-0, with a goal from Casey Cizikas shortly after an Islanders power play expired, and a goal from Brock Nelson a few minutes later after the play seemed to be shifting in the Caps’ favor. The Cizikas goal was a deflection from the high slot that it briefly appeared was going to be challenged by the Caps (it looked like it may have gone off his skate but there was no way he really could have kicked it in from that distance.)
The Nelson goal came after Nick Leddy carried the puck up ice from the defensive zone, passing it off to Nelson who let off his patented wrist shot past Braden Holtby.
However, not even a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov would get the Caps back within one. Johnny Boychuk failed to clear the puck and Devon Toews blew his coverage, leaving Kuznetsov all alone to stickhandle around Semyon Varlamov to create an empty net to score on. It felt like both Toews and Varlamov could have done more on the play to find any attempt to knock Kuznetsov off the puck, but both were frozen by his great move.
A few minute after that, Tom Wilson tied the game by picking up a loose puck in front that Nicklas Backstrom shot at Varlamov to create a rebound. So, an eventful period closed out 2-2, with neither team particularly happy with their defensive effort.
Just 44 seconds into the second, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second of the game to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead. Adam Pelech gave the puck away to TJ Oshie, who passed it to Kuznetsov who made space for himself to shoot the puck past Varlamov.
About four minutes later, Casey Cizikas would score his second of the game to tie it again. Matt Martin stole the puck from Radko Gudas and got it to Cizikas, who split his two defenders to shoot the puck past Holtby from the slot.
There was a nervy moment when Johnny Boychuk whiffed on a puck, causing Varlamov to leave his net to make a play, but he nearly gave it away, but Boychuk was able to bail him out and clear. Mathew Barzal had tried a few shots near post against Holtby, but it was Tom Kuhnhackl who was able to score in that spot from a Barzal feed as he caught Holtby cheating low, giving the Islanders a 4-3 lead.
The Capitals put on a ton of pressure this period, turning it into the Varlamov show as he turned away shots from Garnet Hathaway, Backstrom, and John Carlson among others. A Mat Barzal turnover led to the Isles getting stuck in the defensive end but Varlamov was strong. Cizikas and Hathaway took matching roughing minors and the teams played at four on four, but neither team could score. Scott Mayfield took a bad tripping penalty in the final minute of the game, but Varlamov made a huge save on Alex Ovechkin and eventually Cizikas was able to clear the puck to seal the win for the Islanders, 4-3.
The Islanders head home to the Coliseum to take on the New Jersey Devils for their first game in 2020. This is the first game between the two teams this season, so it’ll be the Islanders’ first look at 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes. It’ll be a great opportunity to start the new year with a win against a division rival.