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Capitals vs Islanders Recap: One Goal Isn't Enough, Caps Lose

John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin ensure that the Isles' will have one more chance to keep the lights on in Nassau Coliseum.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

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Riding the high of back-to-back wins, the Washington Capitals skated onto Nassau Coliseum ice for the very last time— and with the opportunity for the distinction making it the last time the historic building hosted a New York Islanders game. Instead, goals from John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin ensure that the Islanders will have one more chance— this time in Washington, DC— to keep their building's lights on. This one's going to 7.

Check back for our full recap later, but first, here's Sunday afternoon's Plus/Minus:

  • Plus: Evgeny Kuznetsov— the Russian pivot's sequel to the best (and most important) game he's played in a Caps' uniform by centering the Caps' best performing line at even strength. If you can do that on a line with Troy Brouwer, you're doing something right.
  • Minus: The inability to score first. Allowing the first goal in five games out of six isn't a good look, regardless of the ultimate outcome, and by succumbing to this disadvantage game in at game out, they're also depriving themselves of one of their most deadly and consistent assets: protecting the lead.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:
  • Per Mike Vogel, the Caps were 7-5-1 in afternoon games during the regular season, caveating it by recognizing the Caps were 5-2 in day games that began at 3pm or later. Make it 0-2 in the afternoon in the postseason...
  • One thing the Caps have struggled horribly to do in this series is score the first goal. Coming into this one, they did it only in Game 4. Thankfully, the Islanders' characteristic inability to protect their initial lead has been a saving grace. And after John Tavares gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 6:59 into this one, that was a trend they would need to continue. It didn't.
  • Braden Holtby entered Game 6 sporting a .945 save percentage. For perspective, Jaroslav Halak ended his 2010 torture of the Capitals with a .939 mark. Braden was pretty great— if not a bit drunk-looking at times— as we've come to expect. The Tavares marker in the first was a total snipe from one of the greatest players in the League (aided by a questionable pinch on the part of Brooks Orpik), and the Kulemin marker was completely uncontested. If he comes out in Game 7 looking like he has in every game since Game 3, it sure isn't going to be easy to beat him.
  • Enter Griffin Reinhart, exit Griffin Reinhart. Jack Capuano apparently saw enough from his young defenseman in Game 5, and opted to have Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield make their series debuts on the bottom pairing for the Isles. As you'd expect, they didn't see too much ice— aided in no small part to Donovan taking a 10 minute misconduct at the end of the second period. Despite the Isles playing with 5 D for a bulk of the third period, and despite their extreme inexperience, the Capitals were unable to take advantage. Huge missed opportunity here, but one that Barry Trotz will presumably be better able to exploit with last change in Game 7.
  • The power play finally broke through— and nice timing. John Carlson finally eeked one past Jaroslav Halak to get the Caps on the board...with 4 seconds remaining in the period. That's the kind of thing that the Caps are usually on the receiving end of (and were, when Casey Cizikas scored with 13 left in the 1st period of game 4). But even as that puck crossed the goal line, everyone who's watched any hockey game ever knew the Islanders had some power play opportunities coming their way.
  • And indeed, the second period wasn't yet 3 minutes old before the Islanders got their first opportunity of the game. The Caps killed that one off...and then, well and then nothing else. So that's surprising.
  • Coming off a great game in Game 5, the Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Troy Brouwer line were again arguably the Caps' best in Game 6. Through 2 periods, they had the team's best possession numbers, despite starting only 25% of their draws in the offensive zone.
  • Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Joel Ward did not control play at evens, boasting a pretty terrible sub-30% Corsi percentage. And Backstrom's turnover to Kyle Okposo— who rang the chance off the short-side post— was anything but pretty. These guys didn't really have it going this afternoon. So, maybe better for Game 7, yeah?
  • Tom Wilson sure didn't get to see a lot of ice this afternoon, despite his lasting contributions to the series (both the narrative and the on-ice product). Meanwhile, the Islanders 4th line coaxed possession numbers that floated around 70% CF all game, with more than 10 minutes of time on ice at even strength. Talk about an illustration of coaching philosophy differential.
  • But that's not to say the Capitals didn't get caught up in the nuances brought on by physical play, as evidenced by the Islanders' game-winning goal, when no fewer than three Caps got caught up in the corner after a big Ovechkin-on-Tavares hit, giving Nikolay Kulemin an easy walk-in, and the win.
  • Hey, no big deal. It's just Jaroslav Halak coming to play a Game 7 in the Verizon Center. What could possibly go wrong?

    Game highlights: