The Caps have had a fair amount of good fortune at Nassau Coliseum in recent years, going 7-0-1 since the start of the 2007 season, their one loss coming in overtime. But that record doesn't tell the whole tale, as the Isles have proven themselves to be tough opponents for the Caps regardless of their overall record.
That was the case tonight, as the Islanders hung around and stayed in the game long enough to erase a two-goal deficit, score the go-ahead marker late, seal it with the empty netter and send the Caps home with nothing.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Early on it was all Caps, as Joel Ward got the Caps on the scoresheet just a few minutes into the game. His goal, the product of some good cycling, some hard work, some good awareness and a bit of luck, was just the quintessential third line goal.
- Of course that third line had a bit of a different feel to it than on previous nights (at least at first), as Boudreau chose to mix up his combinations a bit for this second of back-to-backs by bumping Jeff Halpern and Brooks Laich up a line. It was an experiment that seemed to work at first but by the end of the second had gone mostly by the wayside, with the familiar trio of Laich, Ward and Jason Chimera reunited and Halpern back on fourth-line duty.
- Kind of a mixed-bag when it came to officiating tonight, as the Caps drew just one minor all game (with a few non-calls scattered throughout) while taking a handful of their own. They also managed to earn a five-minute major power play before erasing it with two cheapish calls like the special pandas that they are. No way to pin this loss on the refs, though...we've tried.
- Speaking of mixed bags, Tomas Vokoun had what can only be described as a strange night in net for the Caps, making a couple of big saves but proving to be leaky at the worst possible time. Hard not to pin four of the five Islanders goals on him, but we'll give him a pass on the fifth one. You know, because he has the ironclad alibi of having been on the bench. Bad nights happen - shake it off, Vokes.
- After a first period that saw the Caps dazzle with puck movement and outplay the Islanders at just about every turn, the second frame saw the Isles get right back in it, putting the Caps back on their heels, outshooting them 15 to 7 and dominating play in their own right. No two ways about it, the Islanders simply outworked the Caps in the final forty minutes.
- Scoring early and late in a period can matter when it comes to momentum, but only if you let it matter. For example, the Caps got on the board in the first five minutes of the game before Ovechkin put the Caps up by two about a minute before the first intermission - but then allowed the Isles to cut the lead in half early in the second and draw even in the dying minutes of the period, and it was New York that carried the momentum into the third.
- The Caps may not have gotten a ton of power play time tonight, but what little time they had they took advantage of. Some excellent passing led to a wrister by Laich, aided by some nice screening by Alex Ovechkin in front of Rick DiPietro to tie the game - at least temporarily.
- All in all it was one of Ovechkin's better games this year, as the captain showed some serious jump and was very involved in this one from start to finish. Along with his bomb of a goal in the first period he also had three shots and another six that were blocked or missed the net, and he had several good scoring chances go slightly awry.
- Also very involved in the play tonight: Dennis Wideman...though not really in a good way. If Vokoun was having a shaky night, he wasn't helped much by Wideman, who was on for four of the five goals-against and six of the nine in the last two games - somewhat troubling after he went almost three weeks without being on for a single goal-against.
- Marcus Johansson won five of his eight draws tonight, marking the first time he's cracked the 60% win mark all season. Silver lining!!1
So the Caps pick up their third loss of the season in a somewhat uninspiring way, dropping two points against a team that's struggled to score goals (let alone win games) and doing so partly because of some less than impressive goaltending. After a strong start to the game the Caps just didn't have enough in the tank to keep up with the tenacity of the Islanders, and while they kept it competitive right up until the end it simply fell short.
Right back on the horse Tuesday night, though, in the friendly (and hopefully more waterproof) confines of Verizon Center. Time to start a new streak.