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A game after dominating the Isles at home, the Caps took the show on the road to face them in the first of two in a raucous Nassau Coliseum. And despite having the rink tilted for much of the game, the Caps managed to claw their way back into the game with a late game-tying goal... .which turned out to be all for naught.
Here's Sunday's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Braden Holtby. Just two days removed from being sick as a dog, Holtby returned to the crease and did what he does best - which is good, because the Caps needed him to be superb early on. He answered the bell time and time again, giving his team a chance to crawl back into the game as only he can do... and only being beaten by a deflection and a ridiculous angle shot in overtime.
- Minus: The Caps' slow start. Yes, the Islanders were feeding off of the hometown crowd early on, but this inability to start games when they actually start is an issue that has lingered for awhile now. That the Caps have been able to somewhat recover by the third is good, but they can't be playing behind the eight ball for the rest of the series.
Ten more notes on the game:
- There was a lot of talk in this one about the volume in the building, given that it’s the last postseason hurrah in the Nassau Coliseum (and apparently some comments from the Caps’ captain). And yes, it was loud…because 16,000 people in a tiny space with good acoustics will sound loud, especially in the playoffs. But a "can you hear us?" chant? That’s just so 2011.
- Isles seemed to want to hit everything that moved, which is exciting and playoff-y but not really their game. If you’re hitting, you’re not using speed and puck possession… which is probably why they settled down a bit by the second.
- Not before making sure this game had a body count, though, as the Caps were down two forwards before the first period was in the books. First it was Eric Fehr taking a heavy hit early in the game and leaving with what looked like a shoulder injury; that was followed by Marcus Johansson limping off the ice after colliding with Cal Clutterbuck along the boards. The good news? Johansson returned for the second and seemed no worse for wear. The bad? Fehr did not.
- As has been the case for much of this series, the ice was tilted towards one goalie for most of the game, with the Islanders dominating through two periods and peppering Braden Holtby with 33 shots over that span. If it’s not for Holtby reminding us all what he’s capable of, this one doesn’t even get out of regulation.
- Remember those slow starts we mentioned? They have actually cost the Caps, with the Islanders picking up the game's first goal in each of the three games so far. Given the way they played during the season after ceding the first goal of the game, it's not the way the Caps want to be doing things in the playoffs, no matter how many contextual variances exist in that record. Tough to fault Holtby on that opening tally, as it came about as a result of a slick deflection by Kyle Okposo in front of the net.
- As is always the case in these games, there were a couple of Caps who could be singled out as needing to be better - but one that stands out is Troy Brouwer, who really had a rough run today, flubbing a couple of scoring chances and taking a bad penalty immediately after the Caps gave up a goal. Do better things in Game 4, Troy.
- Luckily that penalty didn't directly hurt the Caps on the scoreboard; neither team really had much of anything going with the extra man, actually, with each one getting three opportunities on the power play and both coming up empty.
- After being on their heels for much of the game, the Caps stepped onto the ice for the third period ready to play, flipping the script on an Isles team that had, until that point, held the puck for the majority of the game. And after generating just 13 shots in the first two periods, the Caps put 12 on Jaroslav Halak in the third...
- ...which led to Nicklas Backstrom tying things up late in the third period. The Caps have been on the other side of this many times, where they let the other team hang around and hang around until it costs them - and the Islanders just let the Caps hang around a bit too long. Of course, given the way the Caps played through forty minutes, that might not have been such a crazy game plan. Nonetheless, to overtime we would go.
- But we wouldn't stay there very long. It's somehow fitting that 28 years to the day the three-overtime Easter Epic finally ended, the Caps would end up in overtime against the Islanders... and lose in just 15 seconds. History both repeating itself and writing a new chapter, with John Tavares adding himself to a list of playoff overtime enemies.
That's a tough one to swallow, for fans and players alike - but the Caps were pretty well dominated from start to finish in this one, so the fact that they lost isn't all that surprising. There are no points for getting to the extra frame in the playoffs, and the Caps just showed up too late for this one.
And maybe a quick end is best for all concerned. As we all know, overtime losses get more crushing the deeper they go into the extra time and the more the hope builds; so to go 15 seconds in and have it end allows us all to regroup and get ready for a big Game 4.
Because this team has already shown plenty of resiliency in this series - now it's time to put it on display once again.