This was an important game for the Islanders coming off their mediocre showing against the Lightning two nights ago. Their effort the other night just wasn’t there the entire contest. And given the nightmare they had against the Capitals a few weeks ago, this game had an extra level of anxiety built in.
The Islanders got off to a fast start and even had a four-goal lead at one point, chasing starter Ilya Samsonov. However, as that nightmare reminded us, no lead is safe against the Capitals. The lead had shrunk back down to two goals before the third period started, and every Islander fan reading this would be lying if they said they didn’t have that “oh no” feeling creeping in.
But they played an excellent and scoreless third period to stave off the Capitals, who didn’t really threaten until they pulled replacement goalie Braden Holtby. Thomas Greiss made the big saves he needed to in the third and the Islanders took this game in regulation.
Apologies if this recap slows down your browser, folks. I tried to cut it down as much as possible, but too many interesting and fun things happened tonight. I couldn’t leave out any of the tweets!
First Period: Beau Knows, as Does Bailey
The first ten minutes of the game were the Anthony Beauvillier show. He scored two early goals on two nice Islanders plays.
The first came as a result of a clean zone entry and a pretty passing set-up. As each of them skated in different directions Josh Bailey fed Brock Nelson, who dropped back to Bailey. Then, Bailey found Beauvillier coming down the right wing to beat Ilya Samsonov.
NELSON ➡️ BAILEY ➡️ BEAUVILLIER ➡️— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 11, 2020
(Beauvillier's first goal) pic.twitter.com/LLsCKBgekL
Less than 3:00 later, Beauvillier got the puck into the corner and forechecked nicely. He forced the Caps into a turnover that Bailey grabbed below the dots. They needed a few high-danger shots before it squirted out to Beauvillier, who skated to a little more open ice before getting it past Samsonov. Bailey and Nelson each got another assist.
THAT'S TWO FOR BEAUVILLIER! pic.twitter.com/xHblx4EI2Y— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 11, 2020
The Capitals got one back on a bit of a fluke. Johnny Boychuk battled with Alex Ovechkin in front of the net and took him out of commission, but John Carlson’s point shot deadened off Boychuk’s torso and came in like a knuckleball on Thomas Greiss, who was moving in the direction of the shot’s original path.
Brendan Burke and the MSG crew swore it was Ovechkin’s 699th career goal, but alas it was not. And it wasn’t happening tonight, either.
In the meantime, the Islanders got their first power play of the game, courtesy of Leo Komarov(?) getting hooked on a breakaway(?!) but it was negated about 40 seconds into it by a Jordan Eberle penalty.
That kind of hold is, by letter of the law, a penalty, but you see it uncalled as often as called, so it was a bit annoying. No matter, though, because the Islanders took back the two-goal lead off the first 4-on-4 face-off.
Nelson won the face-off back to Ryan Pulock, who got it forward to Bailey. Devon Toews sneaked by the sleeping Washington defense. Bailey floated it to Toews in the slot and Toews made no mistake.
He also did nothing to celebrate—like, he barely raised his arms. Not making that mistake, either.
And, if you’re counting, that was Bailey’s third assist of the first period.
Second Period: Two-Goal Lead Grows to Four-Goal Lead, Shrinks Back to Two-Goal Lead
Komarov continued to make an impact early in the second, converting a Nelson pass from the face-off dot that squeaked through the five-hole of Samsonov. That was Nelson’s third assist of the game, too. Wonder when the last time two Islanders each had three assists in the same game.
Uncle Leo goes five-hole! pic.twitter.com/lsWV5j7QPT— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 11, 2020
Then, things got chippy. Noted scumbag Garnet Hathaway shoving Pulock from behind as they skated into the Isles’ zone, sending him crashing into the net. Luckily, it was all net and no post, and Pulock was okay. Hathaway came away uninjured, but certainly not unscathed. Man, did Ross Johnston ever pound him.
And the Islanders came away from all of it on the power play: Hathaway was assessed a penalty for his dangerous, shitty interference on Pulock on top of his and Johnston’s fighting majors. They failed to convert it, but killed off a Mathew Barzal tripping penalty.
Midway through the second, Komarov cleanly crushed Evgeny Kuznetsov, who looked hurt on the play and, to my knowledge, did not return.
The hit that injured Evgeny Kuznetsov pic.twitter.com/anSlsxSV3y— Ian Oland (@ianoland) February 11, 2020
Then, the Islanders extended the lead.
Barzal sprung Eberle and Anders Lee on a 2-on-1. Lee saw Eberle all alone in front of Samsonov and Eberle tapped the pass high up over the Caps’ goalie to make it 5-1.
Jordan Eberle.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 11, 2020
Todd Reirden brought in Braden Holtby to try to fire his team up and it paid immediate dividends, though it was more of a fluke than anything else.
Right off the center-ice draw, the Capitals got the puck deep and Carl Hagelin retrieved it behind the Isles’ net. As he came around front, he threw it toward the dueling Nelson and Lars Eller, and the puck clanked off Eller’s skate and in.
The refs didn’t call one of the more blatant trips I’ve seen in a while when Barzal was pulled down, and on the same play, all the way in the opposite end, Scott Mayfield battled with Hathaway and high-sticked him. The power play allowed Washington back into it.
A passive Islanders penalty kill let the Capitals work for over a minute and a half without a clear and eventually, T.J. Oshie one-timed a Carlson pass from the Ovechkin Office.
Ovechkin, who was battling with Komarov down low and was probably still perturbed by the Kuznetsov hit, said something to him there and then the two bumped each other after the goal celebration.
More importantly, the Islanders only held a two-goal lead against this vaunted offense. That’s when I said “here we go, again” going into the third.
But I was happy to be wrong about that.
Third Period: A Shutdown Clinic
You may say that “clinic” isn’t the best word to describe how the third period went. After all, it wasn’t like the Capitals went quietly into the night. They tried their damnedest to get it within a goal. And in the first minute of the third, it certainly felt like a distinct possibility.
But then Greiss and the Islanders settled in. I still felt nervous, as I would expect to holding a lead against the Capitals in the third period, but nothing happened that made me feel like the Islanders escaped that game.
No, they stifled the Capitals, allowing them few, if any, second chances. And, they did not give that supremely talented power play a chance to work its magic. (Although the crowd thought there were a few calls the refs missed and, objectively, they were right.)
Once Washington pulled Holtby, things felt a little hairy again. But they didn’t wilt in the face of that pressure and got the puck out with enough frequency to allow line changes and prevent the Capitals from tiring out the Islanders’ defensive unit.
No goals were scored in the final frame, after two high-scoring periods to start the game, and the result was a 5-3 decision for the Islanders.
- The most exciting season series between these two teams in recent memory is over, and in each game, the road team won in regulation. Every game went down to the wire, and every game got chippy. The Islanders are now third in the Metro by virtue of having played three more games than the Blue Jackets, but had the season ended last night, they would have been playing the Capitals in the first round. I’m not sure my heart can handle that playoff series, and I’m not certain the Islanders could win it. But damn, would it be fun.
- Hell of a night for the second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, and Brock Nelson. The former one had the first two goals of the game and nearly got the hat trick with five minutes left in the third, while the latter two each had three assists and I think would’ve had a fourth each if Beauvillier converted that hat trick chance. More impressive, perhaps, is that they did all of that against the Washington top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and slimeball Tom Wilson.
Bailey had all three of his assists in the first period, the first Islander to accomplish that since Mariusz Czerkawski back in 2002. Remember that game? I definitely do, and so does Carey.
- I didn’t love the decision to take Kieffer Bellows out of the lineup—I thought there was at least one more deserving candidate to take a seat—but Barry Trotz always moves his rookies along slowly and Ross Johnston’s fists did come of good use.
- Matt Martin and Leo Komarov were, to me, the better candidates to take a seat. But Komarov, to his credit, had a hell of a game, drawing a penalty, scoring a goal, and hitting Kuznetsov with a clean check. Gotta hand it to him tonight. And Martin was getting under Wilson’s skin a bit, too.
- Thomas Greiss was solid tonight. Two of the goals he conceded were fluky bounces and the other was at the tired end of a power play, and he never let the Capitals back into it. Credit to him, as well.
- The best part? Ovechkin was nowhere to be found on the scoresheet, let alone getting his milestone no. 700 against us. The days-long counterjinxes worked, folks!
This game was especially huge because the Flyers won tonight, too, beating the Panthers in regulation. Tomorrow night, Philadelphia will come to Brooklyn for a 7:00 p.m. start. Let’s hope for another regulation win to put a little distance between us and the pack.
Plus, the Isles will be on national TV for the second night in a row, so it would be nice to take two huge wins in a row on the big stage.