The nine-game win streak and the twelve-game point streak had to end at some point. But you would have liked to see a little more fight as they went down.
The Islanders played spectacularly in the first period, doing everything but scoring a goal. They lacked the same jump in the second period, though. Once the Capitals took the lead, they clamped down on the Islanders in Trotzian fashion, giving up only seven Isles shots over the final two periods to take away from the Isles first place in the East Division.
The Islanders really needed to penetrate the zone more, but they had almost no forecheck in the second and third periods. Not going to have much of a chance against a good defensive team like Washington if you never put the puck behind them and get it back.
First Period: The Start They Need Without the Tallies
The first period belonged to the Islanders. They did everything right and very much looked like the rested team. But Ilya Samsonov turned aside all eleven shots he faced.
Justin Schultz hooked Mathew Barzal to give the Islanders the first power play of the game, but as has been common lately, they did not do much with it.
At one point late in the period, Barzal held on to the stick of Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov, when he regained control of his stick, responded by breaking it over Barzal’s back in a textbook cross-check. Neither player received a penalty, though.
Second Period: Rather Disappointing
Casey Cizikas tripped Nicklas Backstrom early in the period to send the Isles on the penalty kill. They executed their kill perfectly, allowing zero shots. But the Capitals gained some momentum after their power play.
After tripping Oliver Wahlstrom without a call, the Caps picked up the puck went the other way. The Isles had pinched in a little, allowing three Washington forwards to challenge Pulock, who never had a chance to get set. Varlamov came out to challenge Kuznetsov, who threw the puck behind the Isles’ goalie. It hit the post, but the Islanders coming back followed the Capitals behind the net, allowing T.J. Oshie to clean up the mess.
Barzal cross-checked Nicklas Jensen in the offensive zone and not near the puck—a foolish penalty and an easy call for the referee. The Islanders’ kill did not look nearly as effective this go-round, as Washington worked the puck around until they could set up Ovechkin for his patented one-timer. He blew the puck by Varlamov for career goal no. 718, taking from Phil Esposito sole possession of sixth place on the all-time goals list.
At the end of the period, Richard Panik tangled with Scott Mayfield. Zdeno Chara whined about it from the bench and somehow, Mayfield earned the only penalty, a roughing minor that gave the Caps a full man-advantage to start the third.
Third Period: Not What You Like to See When Trailing
Samsonov had an issue with his pads that delayed the beginning of the third period. Alright, fine, that should have really been done during the 17-minute intermission, but whatever.
Onto game-play: the Capitals’ power play seems methodical at times. It looks like everyone is standing around. And I think that may have been the goal because they kept the Isles standing still, allowing Backstrom to sneak behind the net and away from Pelech to tap in a slap pass from Jakub Vrana.
Trailing by three, Kieffer Bellows tried to execute a move that helped him score his second goal on Saturday night in New Jersey. He was not able to score, but he drew a holding penalty on Vrana.
The Islanders’ power play remained mostly inept, but a break allowed them to convert with a few seconds left on the penalty. Chara threw the puck into open ice where Wahlstrom grabbed the puck and fired. It looked like it tipped off of Panik’s stick on the way, but it beat Samsonov.
Of note, Barzal did not skate on this power play that lasted nearly the full two minutes. He also did not take his first shift of the period until the 12:00 mark, confirmed punishment for his second-period penalty.
Now, you may be wondering why I mentioned that Samsonov needed an equipment adjustment to start the period. Ordinarily, I would not have noticed or cared. But immediately after the Isles’ goal, Samsonov skated back over to the bench, getting yet another equipment adjustment less than five minutes into the period. He needed two equipment adjustments to start the period, and the second one effectively gave the Capitals a timeout. How that is not a delay of game penalty escapes me.
If that did not kill whatever momentum the Isles may have had, Sebastian Aho’s holding penalty against Panik on the very next shift certainly threatened it. Luckily, the Isles did not concede a goal, but I would not call it a strong penalty kill.
The Islanders tried to create some chances and got some zone time to do just that, but did not get enough pucks on goal. A good way to sum up the night might be that Ryan Pulock pinched into a wide-open lane, presumably looking for a pass to shoot. The puck came his way and he completely missed it.
As time dwindled down, the Islanders could hardly get out of their own zone to pull Varlamov. Finally, they were able to set up with less than 1:30 left on the clock. But, consistent with the theme of the period, they did not get enough pucks on net. They had a couple of chances that might have been dangerous had they shot in time. And both Bellows and Wahlstrom broke sticks during the six-on-five, because when it rains, it pours. The Capitals won, 3–1.
Notes and Thoughts
- It really sticks in my craw that Ovechkin notched his milestone against us. I don’t know how many times that has happened, but it definitely feels like it was at least the fourth or fifth time. And you know that propelled the Capitals a bit.
- Ovechkin scored on the power play gifted to them by Barzal’s completely unnecessary penalty. I get the frustration, I really do, but he cannot blatantly cross-check someone away from the play and expect it not to get called. And he especially should not be gifting power plays to the Caps.
- Though, it would certainly help if they had even the slightest answer for the Capitals’ power play. Thus far this season, the Isles have killed only four of nine Washington power plays. You don’t have to be good at math to know that means that they have killed off less than half of Washington’s man-advantages. They killed off the first one with seeming ease, but Washington figured it out the next two times.
The Islanders head back to Long Island to host the Flyers for two games before heading back out on the road, starting in Philadelphia. Thursday’s game, a 7:00 p.m. start, will be the first game in which the Isles welcome back fans.