The writing was really on the wall for this one. A Caps team the Islanders really needed to get two points from that’s missing Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kusnetzov, Ilya Samsonov, and Dmitry Orlov. An opportunity to bounce back after a disappointing game against the Devils. Was there ever any other result?
John Carlson opened the scoring but Noah Dobson tied it up. Mat Barzal gave us the lead, and then Daniel Sprong tied it up. And then Justin Schultz delivered the heartbreaker with 30 seconds left in the game. The Isles couldn’t even leave with a point from a team without several star players that was down to two centers by the end of the game. It might be time for a little concern when the only good performances this season have been blowouts against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season, followed up by duds against the same teams.
Semyon Varlamov had to be sharp early, notably making some big saves on Richard Panik to keep the game even at zero. Adam Pelech blocked a shot from TJ Oshie with his skate which led to him heading off to the Isles room for some extra attention, but he was back for the Isles’ penalty kill after Matt Martin was sent to the box for tripping.
Varlamov made a big save on the kill but left a rebound for a wide open John Carlson, who gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead.
But about 4 minutes later, Noah Dobson would tie the game off a long drive that went off Brenden Dillon’s stick in front of Vitek Vanecek.
Pelech was still hurting after a couple of different hits from the Caps, and while trying to clear the Isles’ zone, he hit Nicklas Backstrom up high with the puck. Backstrom went to the Caps’ locker room, presumably for stitches.
Carl Hagelin was called for boarding against Pelech, and the Isles’ PP had a slightly different look with Anthony Beauvillier out. Kieffer Bellows made his PP2 debut, though the Isles didn’t score on the man advantage. It did lead to extended zone time for the Islanders, however, and Zdeno Chara turned the puck over to Mat Barzal, who scored on a nice backhand shot to give the Isles the lead.
Barzal rang another off the post, and Varlamov got a piece of a Nick Dowd shot off a 2 on 1.
Backstrom returned to the game, but later took an interference penalty off a faceoff and the Islanders went on the power play once again, and were once again unsuccessful.
Daniel Sprong tied the game for the Caps with a nice shot that beat Varlamov cleanly.
The Isles ended the period on the power play after Lars Eller tripped Dobson.
The Isles were putting pressure on the Caps for a good part of the period but not really getting any good opportunities on goal. Then, as Eller was passing the puck out of the zone, Leo Komarov lined him up for a borderline hit that was called as a boarding major. I’m... not convinced it was a major penalty, but the refs were, and Eller was hurt on the play and did not return to the game.
The Islanders successfully and fairly impressively killed the five minute major, including a shorthanded opportunity with Brock Nelson and JG Pageau where Nelson’s pass bounced too much for Pageau to get a handle.
Backstrom went back to the Caps’ room again and would not return to the game, leaving the Capitals with just two centers. It seemed like the Isles would at least be able to secure a point and get this to overtime, but Justin Schultz scored the game winning goal as he got past Komarov to get a good shot on Varlamov that went in with about 30 seconds left. The Isles pulled Varlamov for the extra attacker and had one solid shot, but it wouldn’t be enough and the Isles would drop the game 3-2.
- I’m trying to imagine if any young borderline roster player had done what Leo Komarov did, whether he’d be out defending a tie in the final minute of the game. I just don’t think there’s anyone who could argue in good faith that if Kieffer Bellows, Michael Dal Colle, or Oliver Wahlstrom had done that, that they wouldn’t be scratched for the rest of the season.
- Is it time to talk about the fourth line? They haven’t been the forechecking force we know they can be, and they’ve looked out of sync numerous times already. It might be time to admit that these guys play a tough style that wears you down and doesn’t lend itself to a productive career into your mid 30s, and that we might be seeing the effects of that, especially with their injury histories.
- Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey were really the driving force of the Islanders’ success in the playoff bubble. They’ve been basically non-existent so far this season. Lines 3 and 4 are big messes, but the Islanders can’t generate any goals consistently if it’s all on Mat Barzal every night. They’re going to have to be better, and that would include Anthony Beauvillier, whose injury makes that line’s poor play even more noticeable.
- It’s time to play the kids and see what they can do. There’s no reason why Ross Johnston and Leo Komarov should be in the Isles lineup, and Pageau needs wingers who can provide some offense. Gotta give Wahlstrom some games and see what happens.
Next, the Islanders take on the Capitals once again on Thursday. Their stars still won’t be back, and it’s possible they could be missing one or both of Backstrom and Eller. Maybe some wounded pride from this game and a second crack at a potentially weaker roster can help the Islanders get back in the winning groove.