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Islanders 5, Capitals 1: Pageau, Gauthier pile up points in therapeutic win

A comfortable win was just what the Isles and the festive season home crowd needed.

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
A statement night from Gauthier?
Photo by Rich Graessle/Getty Images

J-G Pageau had four points, linemate Julien Gauthier had three and Ilya Sorokin came 18 seconds short of a shutout as the Islanders responded to an embarrassing home loss on Wednesday by thoroughly brushing aside the Washington Capitals with a 5-1 win at Elmont on Friday night.

After losing 7-0 a couple nights prior, the Islanders made a dent in repairing that damage to their goal differential, though a late goal broke the shutout and took just a bit of the satisfaction from an otherwise great night.

All five Islanders goals were off the rush and counterattack, an artifact that will probably drive the Capitals coaching staff to the video room. The final one followed a bit of a fluke bounce on a dump-in, but the Capitals were still slow to react, though at that point the game was out of reach.

[NHL Gamecenter | Game Summary | Event Summary | Natural Stat Trick]

Lineup Maneuvers

A few factors influenced a changed lineup tonight. Perhaps most prominent was Cal Clutterbuck lining up at center, filling in for Casey Cizikas as the Isles stalwart checking center missed the game with illness. Also on that line, Matt Martin returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 15 and a fairly lengthy IR stint.

And then you had Gauthier, coming back for the first time since before Christmas, while Oliver Wahlstrom sat.

Also: Semyon Varlamov was not on the bench due to “maintenance” on whichever (returning?) injury he’s battling. He might not go on the road trip, and Ken Appleby was called up from Bridgeport as backup.

The Game: Dobson, Gauthier and Pageau Show

There was another big crowd, ready to celebrate the festive season and looking for an answer to Wednesday’s terrible 0-7 blowout loss. But the game started with a pretty quiet first period.

Of note, however: Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren left the game after facing just three shots, and apparently he was already feeling something off after the first one.

That brought in Darcy Kuemper, who probably wishes he wasn’t called to duty tonight.

After a scoreless first (and just seven shots on Kuemper), Pageau broke the seal early on a play where Simon Holmstrom and Noah Dobson made big contributions that didn’t show up on the scoresheet.

First, Holmstrom did well to disrupt the Caps even after he broke his stick on a shot block. He stayed with his man and applied pressure and a check along the left wing boards, forcing a turnover. The Isles were quick to move it up ice, and Noah Dobson joined the rush to amp up the pressure. Dobson drove the net, drawing the defense away as Gauthier fed Alex Romanov, who fed Pageau for the one-timer:

Just 1:10 later, Dobson got on the scoreboard with a one-timer of a wobbling puck on a similar rush up ice. Bo Horvat fed up to Mathew Barzal, who gained the zone, pulled up and fed Dobson for a shot that Kuemper didn’t appear to see.

That made it 2-0 for the Isles just 6:01 into the second period. They wouldn’t score again until well into the third, but they played really well in both periods to never let the game come into doubt.

Halfway through the third, after a 4-on-4 stretch concluded with no major events from either side, Gauthier broke the game open, with a little help from J-G Pageau. The Isles #44 came off the bench to accept a cross-ice from Bo Horvat, then break in on left wing to unleash a shot. The rebound kicked out to the slot, but Pageau kept driving the net to help Gauthier be completely unmarked. Gauthier put a nice shot into the near-side post to make it 3-0.

Just 18 seconds later, Gautheir put the game away. Pageau broke in down the left wing again and fed Gauthier, who couldn’t settle the pass enough to get a forehand off but kept with it patiently enough to tuck the backhand in behind Kuemper’s outstretched pad.

Pageau added a second of his own four minutes later, accepting a fortunate carom of a Simon Holmstrom dump-in attempt to weave around the defense and put the puck in upstairs to make it 5-0.

The final event was the shutout breaker, a heartbreaker for Sorokin. In garbage time, Niclas Aube-Kubel went around Robert Bortuzzo to attempt a shot on Sorokin. But the puck slipped too far away for a shot as Bortuzzo held him up; Sorokin came out to play the puck with his stick...only to have the puck take a sandlot-infield hop on him, jumping his stick and going through the wickets.

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