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Islanders 5, Capitals 1: Dobson hits 50, Nelson-Barzal race is on

Everything went perfectly until Varlamov lost a shutout bid with 41 seconds left.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Party while we still can.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Mathew Barzal notched three nifty assists, young Noah Dobson added two to reach 50 points, and Semyon Varlamov was 41 seconds short of a shutout as the New York Islanders capped a home-and-home sweep of the Washington Capitals with a 5-1 victory at Belmont.

It doesn’t matter, of course, but at least the Isles are keeping on and entertaining home fans on their way to a premature end to their playoffless season.

The Isles special teams were outstanding, including killing two four-minute power plays and scoring three power play goals, two of them set up by Barzal with sweet setups in the first period.

Josh Bailey set up the other with a nice on-a-tee pass to Kyle Palmieri for a one-timer that made it 4-0 early in the third. That came soon after the Isles killed off a double-minor to Oliver Wahlstrom, who made a comical attempt to exact frontier justice on Garnet Hathaway before crashing to the ice.

Brock Nelson returned from illness to score the opener, his career-high 37th of the season. That and Barzal’s three assists sets up a side story about who will finish as the team’s leading scorer. Heading into Game #82 tomorrow night, Nelson has 59 points and Barzal has 58.

[NHL Gamecenter | Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

Other notes:

  • Ryan Pulock was an illness scratch, so Robin Salo and Sebastian Aho each had further viewing. Strong game from Salo, who showed lots of confidence.
  • Of course, maybe Salo is trying to eliminate internal competition? It was his skate that sent Adam Pelech to the dressing room in a hurry after a scary, fluke incident where Salo’s skate sliced Pelech’s ankle. Fortunately, Pelech returned from what could’ve been an ugly accident.
  • Wahlstrom went after Hathaway during a counterattack, after Hathaway served a gently administered two-minute minor for boarding Aho’s head into the boards from behind. Judging by Hathaway’s immediate reaction, it was merely careless and unintentional; but Hathaway has a history of “oops!” accidents that put other NHLPA members’ health in jeopardy.
  • Thankfully Aho was fine. He left, possibly for mandatory concussion check, but returned. With Matt Martin on the ice, Wahlstrom slashed Hathaway and then tried to tackle him but ended up sprawled on the ice and under the pile. B for effort I guess, maybe?
  • Some really terrific plays in this game including Barzal’s setup of Nelson, Bailey’s setup of Palmieri, J-G Pageau undressing multiple Capitals on a neutral zone rush and also scoring shorthanded with a speed burst and sneaky shot. (Pageau’s goal came right after a penalty expired and was essentially a shorthander, as Butch Goring pleaded.)
  • Also: Bailey’s goal that made it 5-0 was a dizzying series of moves where he actually chose to SHOOT (or deke) rather than pass:
  • Though the final score was a blowout, the Capitals responded well early in the second when trailing just 1-0, and even early in the third at 2-0 they had a chance to get back into the game. But Pageau’s goal after the power play was a blow, and Palmieri’s one-timer turned it into a rout.

Bailey setting up Palmieri (after some typical but uncredited work from Barzal):

By the way, Palmieri’s goal was his 200th NHL regular season goal (it could be higher but for the seven disallowed goals or so), and Anders Lee’s goal (his 212th) pushed him ahead of current Hawks coach Derek King for 10th (!) on the Isles all-time list. Next on the list is Bobby Nystrom at 234.

Thus Spake Trotz

Up Next

It’s all finished tomorrow night, also at home, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit. They lost 5-2 in Columbus tonight, so they could yet drop a spot in the standings and alter their playoff matchup.