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Coming off of one of their best wins of the year Saturday night, the Caps headed to Long Island looking to wrap up December - and the 2014 portion of their schedule - with a win. Their last game at Nassau Coliseum was a big one, a Divisional matchup against one of the teams they'd have to leapfrog for a guaranteed playoff berth - win tonight, and the deficit becomes three points.
Tuesday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Goonies, er, Caps never say die! That the Caps managed to rebound from being down 3-0 to tie up the game and force a point was impressive, especially considering just how bad they looked early on in this one. And it was as much a testament to their ability to claw their way back into games... as it is proof that the Islanders just cannot hold a 3-0 lead.
- Minus: Brooks Orpik's injury. That looked nasty, and painful, and depending on how serious it turns out to be, could be a potentially huge blow to the Caps down the stretch. Here's hoping it wasn't as bad as it looked... because it looked really bad.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Islanders had the better legs all night tonight, and it started early, as they got several good chances in the opening frame before finally cashing in with the game's first goal. Pretty slick deflection of a Thomas Hickey point shot by Anders Lee, who was camped out in front of Braden Holtby (because let's face it, the only way goals get by Holtby these days is if someone's camped out in front of him and/or there's a deflection).
- For everyone grousing about Jason Chimera on the top line... it lasted one whole period before Barry Trotz made the switch. Which was entirely predictable and therefore not worth the grousing.
- If the first Islanders' goal was a nice deflection, the second one was anything but. This one wasn't so much a result of the Isles setting up in front of Holtby or even of the Caps being set up poorly - rather, it was a weird bounce off the face/arm/upper body of Brooks Orpik and into the net. One of the weirder deflection goals you'll see scored, and just the start of a rough night for #44.
- After dominating with the extra man for the first quarter of the season, the Caps' power play has gone eerily quiet and was barely noticeable tonight - except when they were screwing up. The Islanders went to the penalty box four times tonight, and four times the Caps came up empty; they now have just four power-play goals in their last 30 opportunities.
- How bad was the power play tonight? So bad that they not only didn't score, they gave up a shorthanded goal... the first one they've given up all season, one of three teams who could claim as much coming into tonight's game. Granted, what the Islanders lack in penalty-killing ability in general (their 74% effectiveness is ranked dead last) is somewhat balanced by the five - and now six - shorthanded goals they've scored this year. Still, no excuse for the sloppy play in their own zone, with a turnover by Joel Ward kicking it all off.
- Further complicating matters as far as special teams were concerned was the fact that the Caps began a parade to the penalty box. The Islanders aren't the best power-play team, but give them enough chances (as we saw the last time the Caps paid a visit to lovely Nassau Coliseum) and they'll make you pay, like any team. That was the case again tonight, as the Caps proceeded to take six penalties... including a double-minor near the end of regulation. But more on that in a minute.
- As bad as the Caps were early on, they did a nice job of clawing their way back into this one, and in a pretty short span of time. The rally started just three minutes after the Islanders went up by three, when (who else?) Eric Fehr and company crashed the net and managed to put the puck past Jaroslav Halak to cut the lead back to two...
- ...and then it was the Caps' other hot hand, Nicklas Backstrom, picking up a nice feed from Alex Ovechkin for his 12th of the year less than two minutes later. Backstrom appreciated that assist so much that he then returned the favor late in the third, setting up Ovechkin for the equalizer with just under three minutes left. Tie game. New game. Fourth game this month in which the Isles have blown a three-goal lead.
- The excitement of the comeback was halted a bit between the second and third Caps' goals when Brooks Orpik went in to check Cal Clutterbuck and jammed his knee into Clutterbuck's thigh. Nothing scarier than seeing one of the tougher, more physical guys on the team rolling around on the ice in apparent agony - especially when it's a guy who has been relied upon to play a huge role on the blueline. Hard not to think the worst after watching him put absolutely no weight on his leg as he left the ice... but according to Trotz, it may not be as bad as it looked. Here's hoping.
- Back to the game, where the hits - and penalties - just kept on coming. Last time the Caps visited Long Island, it was Nicklas Backstrom in the box in overtime when the Islanders finished them off; this time it was Evgeny Kuznetsov taking a seat, tagged with a double-minor with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Thankfully the Caps were able to kill off the first minute, securing a point in a game where that had seemed impossible early on, but with just seconds remaining on the second minor, Johnny Boychuk rifled a shot from the point past Braden Holtby for the win.
The Caps really had no business getting to overtime in this one, let alone winning - so to get a point is something of a victory, albeit a bit of a hollow one considering how it was earned and what might have been lost along the way. That the comeback happened is good; that they chose not to even really be in the game until the third period (and even then needed to fall into a 3-0 hole first) is disappointing.
Perhaps they were looking past this one a bit, a lull in the schedule between a Penguins game and an even bigger one in a few days. Not something we'd like to see them do, but something that would be natural to do given the circumstances.
So take the point and come on home, because it's on to Thursday, the Blackhawks, Nationals Park and the event we've all been waiting for... the Winter Classic. Bring it on.