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Recap: Caps Climb Out of Early Hole Against Islanders, Make It a Series Again in 4-3 win

The Washington Capitals had much more energy than they displayed in Game 1. It looked as if it might go for naught as the Islanders took two-goal leads twice. But the Caps clawed back to make a game of it, then won it with a Jason Chimera goal and a superb performance late by goalie Philipp Grubauer.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals put relentless pressure on the Islanders from the opening drop of the puck in Game 2 of their opening round playoff series.  Even when the Islanders went out to two two-goal leads, the Caps' pressure was unremitting -- out-attempting the Islanders by a 31-13 margin in the first period and by a 32-14 margin in the second.  The Caps climbed all the way back on the scoreboard on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom on a power play early in the third period (their first power play of the game) to tie the game, then took the lead for good four minutes later on a goal by Jason Chimera.

Here's Friday night's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Energy.  The Caps started with a much more energetic effort than in Game 1 and sustained it far longer than what one might have expected from a mere adrenaline rush.  Consider that the Caps had only 55 shot attempts in Game 1.  They recorded their 56th shot attempt 36:08 into the game, a shot by Matt Niskanen, the rebound of which was turned into a goal by Alex Ovechkin.
  • Minus: Coverage mistakes.  Mike Green caught in no-man's land at Islanders' blue line, and it turns into 2-on-1 Cal Clutterbuck goal.  Caps leave high slot empty, John Tavares finds Ryan Strome gliding into the void, and Strome snaps the puck in.   A lot of persistent effort at one end was flushed away by mistakes made in an instant.

Ten more notes on the game:

  • Caps out-attempted the Islanders at 5-on-5, 30-12 in the first period, had 15 scoring chances to nine for New York.  Yet, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead to the locker room.  It was as unsatisfying a dominating period one could imagine.
  • The nominal top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Joel Ward that started the game had a combined two shots on goal in the first period; Ovechkin had only two shot attempts.  The second line of Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Troy Brouwer had one shot on goal in the first frame.  The Caps had a lot of activity, but it was more noise than music.
  • The music played later, though.  The Caps scored three goals in a space of 11:28 spanning the end of the second and beginning of the third period to come all the way back from a 1-3 deficit.
  • One cannot say enough about the effort of goalie Philipp Grubauer.  Imagine the pressure of being a goalie making your first career NHL playoff appearance with your team in jeopardy of going down, 0-2, with both losses at home.  The Caps did a good job in front of him managing the Islanders' shots and chances, but Grubauer was strong when he had to be.
  • The four goals the Caps scored on Jaroslav Halak matched their total scored on the Islanders' netminder over their last four games against him, the last three games of the 2010 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens and Game 1 of this series, all losses.
  • Nicklas Backstrom definitely brought his "A" game to this contest.  A goal, two assists, four shots on goal (tied for the team lead), two hits, and 14-for-21 on faceoffs.
  • Can we say that the Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov pairing on the top line is over?   Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Marcus Johansson were reunited after Karl Alzner's goal in the second period.  Joel Ward was moved onto that line later (he was on ice with Backstrom and Ovechkin on the latter's goal late in the second period), but things just seem to work much more smoothly when Backstrom and Ovechkin are paired.
  • Matt Niskanen had a relatively quiet night, but was all over the score sheet nonetheless: two assists, plus-2, three shots on goal, eight shot attempts, five hits.
  • The Caps, whether by design or just persistence, made adjustments.  In the first period they recorded 31 shots on goal, 26 of them not reaching the net (15 blocks, 11 misses).  In the second period they recorded 32 shots on goal, 18 of them on net.  In the third period it was 12 shots on goal of 18 total attempts.
  • Some odds and ends... Curtis Glencross had his lowest ice time as a Capital (7:08)...Tom Wilson had seven hits in just over seven minutes of ice time...the Caps were credited with 59 hits; even if you think hits are in large part arbitrary (they are), the punishment could take a toll down the road...only ten Islander skaters recorded shots on goal; only three Caps did not (Glencross, Wilson, and Brooks Orpik)...Alex Ovechkin had a goal, nine shot attempts, eight hits...the Caps had one power play opportunity (successful), making it their fourth game in their last eight (dating back to the regular season) in which they had one or no power plays.

And now, this...

Game highlights: