While they haven't been mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture just yet, last night's loss in Newark was a crushing blow to postseason hopes that were already beginning to dim. Falling to their fifth-straight loss (at the exact wrong moment to go on a lengthy losing streak), the Caps headed to Long Island looking to bounce back and perhaps claw their way back into the race...or at least maintain some dignity in these final games of the season.
Ten more notes on the game:
- Tom Wilson hasn't been fighting as much as he was at the start of the season, and I think we can all agree that's a good thing - and after challenging him to a round of fisticuffs (for a hit that was a bit borderline), I'm sure Mike Halmo is probably wishing that good thing had continued. Nonetheless, there was the big
19-year-old20-year-old having to punch yet another face.
- The Islanders would strike first, a little over halfway through the first period. Tyson Strachan can't tie up his man behind the net, Julien Brouillette can't tie up his man in front of the net, and Cal Clutterbuck is able to put one past Braden Holtby. But of course all anyone will focus on is the fact that Alex Ovechkin was on the ice at the time.
- Mike Green absorbed a couple of big hits in the first period against the Islanders, and after the period ended word came out that he was questionable to return after sustaining an upper-body injury. The easy assumption would be that the Caps' defenseman suffered the injury from one of those Islanders' hits... but the way this season has gone for all involved, let's just go ahead and assume it was a result of one of his biggest hits of the night:
- Evgeni Nabokov has shut out the Caps three times in his career, including once back in February. Thankfully he would not be repeating that feat tonight, as Evgeny Kuznetsov got one past him to tie up the game early in the second. The goal was the product of a nice give and go (and give again) with Marcus Johansson that was totally intentional, obviously. Nice awareness by Kuznetsov to get his stick down and anticipate Johansson's "pass" through the paint to fire it home into a wide-open net.
- Of course, since this is the Caps, the good times didn't last that long. Less than two minutes, to be exact, and there were the Islanders with a quick-strike goal against, their 29th of the season. Rough play all around, too, as the Caps were going to be whistled for a delayed penalty, Holtby thought he had the puck in his pads, and the Isles were able to dribble home a goal.
- The Caps appeared to catch a break when they drew a penalty, because they do love them some power-play time... but it was negated shortly after by a (somewhat questionable) roughing call on Alex Ovechkin. Some pretty passing and a complete disregard for the screen in front of Holtby, and just like that the Caps were down by two.
- Weird night all around for special teams, as the Caps twice negated a power play of their own. When they did have the man advantage, their high-powered power play couldn't get anything past one of the worst penalty kills in the League. And on the flip side, the Islanders, possessors of a power play hovering just beneath 17% effectiveness, did pick up a power-play goal.
- So the Caps would have to get their work done at even strength - and it started, amazingly enough, with the top line. A couple of weird bounces, including one off the chest of a fallen Islander (and another "shot" that ended up as a cross-crease pass) eventually resulted in two things that were fortuitous for the Caps: the puck on Nicklas Backstrom's stick and a yawning net.
- Just over two minutes later, it was a hockey game again. Because of - seriously, who else? - Joel Ward, resident even-strength badass. He picked up his 23rd goal of the season after yet another sequence of strange but fortuitous bounces disguised as passes.
- And because we just couldn't get enough of the fun in regulation, the Caps and Isles were kind enough to treat us all to a little extra hockey as the two teams battled it out for the extra point. And then, because even THAT couldn't contain all the fun...it was time for the shootout. Enter Kuznetsov, enter Holtby, exit the Caps with two points.
Much like the little old man in the Holy Grail, the Caps aren't quite dead yet - there's a chance the teams in front of them suffer a collapse down the stretch, and there's a chance the Caps win out the rest of the way. So yes, I'm saying there's a chance.
And at the very least, they didn't lose to the Islanders. So, yay?