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The Washington Capitals shed the heavy cloak of defeat in Games 7 when they bested the New York Islanders on Monday night in one of the most thrilling games in team history. After exchanging single goals it came down to a late tally by Evgeny Kuznetsov with just 7:18 left in regulation. Braden Holtby shook off a bad goal early in the third period to shut the door in the final minutes, and the Caps had their ticket punched to the second round.
Here's the Game 7 Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Doggedness. Not too high, not too low. It was typical of their season. And it allowed them to weather a bad goal and get a sparkling game-winner from Evgeny Kuznetsov.
- Minus: What, are you kidding?
Ten more notes on the game...
- The 11 shots on goal allowed by the Caps was not a record. They allowed 10 to the New Jersey Devils on April 9, 1990 in a 2-1 loss in Game 3 of that series.
- Barry Trotz is now 1-0 in Games 7 as an NHL coach. This was his first.
- The teams combined for an even 100 hits. The Islanders finished with credit for 54, the Caps with 46.
- OK, who had Evgeny Kuznetsov with the game-winner? Anyone? Anyone have him as the series MVP for the Caps? The patience he displayed on the game-winner, waiting for Islander goalie Jaroslav Halak to commit was the move of a ten-year veteran. You could have timed him with a calendar as he waited for Halak to make his move.
- This was only the third Game 7 win on home ice in team history, the second by a 2-1 margin, the second by a 2-1 margin over a New York team (the Caps beat the Rangers in 2009 by that score), and the third one-goal win (they defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime, 5-4, in 1988).
- It looked for the longest time as if it would be another perpetration of grand larceny by Halak on this ice sheet, building on his 41-save effort in the Montreal Canadiens' 2-1 win over the Caps in Game 7 in the first round of the 2010 playoffs. It looked especially bleak when Halak came out of nowhere after an odd carom of the puck to deny Jay Beagle's attempt at what looked like an open net six minutes into the third period. It would be Halak who would crack, though, dropping down to defend a shot from Kuznetsov from his right that did not appear until he put himself out of position.
- Kuznetsov is peaking at the right time. A pre-season favorite to be a Calder Trophy finalist, he never performed at a level that merited consideration. However, among the Calder finalists only Johnny Gaudreau is still playing, along with Kuznetsov, and another player considered as a potential finalist for most of the year - Filip Forsberg - is done for the season. He is tied for third in points among rookies in the post season (four) and second among rookies in goals (3).
- An odd thing about the 11 shots the Caps allowed to the Islanders was that five of them were recorded by Johnny Boychuk (arguably the best skater for the Isles in this series; he was a warrior). John Tavares was held without a shot attempt.
- It was not as if the Caps were lighting up the Islanders with shots from their big guns, either. Jason Chimera (4) and Joel Ward (4) had almost a third of the Caps' 26 shots on goal. Alex Ovechkin was held to a single shot on goal, as was Nicklas Backstrom.
- One of those shots from Ward was very, well...Wardian. He planted his substantial posterior at the top of the crease, and when Brooks Orpik's drive from the left point came in low and was left lying loose at the top of the paint, Ward was there to poke it under Halak's less substantial backside for the game's first goal.
- Odds and Ends...This was just the second time in the series that the Caps scored first; they won both games...Jay Beagle won 10 of 14 draws; he leads the league in faceoff winning percentage in the post season (66.7 percent)...Backstrom was even better in this game, going 16 for 21 in the circle...Brooks Orpik had four blocked shots, but one of them turned out to be equal parts inspirational and comical; he blocked a shot with his skate, breaking the blade and reducing him to kneeling in front of the goal to try his best to defend; he was eventually assisted to the bench by John Carlson when the Caps cleared the zone...Carlson was "deuces wild" - plus-2, two shots, two shots blocked, two missed shots, two hits, and two penalty minutes for the only penalty called in the game...for the first time in DC history, both the Capitals and the NBA Wizards will head to the second round of the playoffs in the same season.
Finally...give the Islanders credit. Remember, this was a team that had their defensive corps decimated, and yet they held the Caps to 16 goals in seven games, only two by Alex Ovechkin. They rose to that challenge and gave the Capitals everything they had. It would be little solace for Islander fans at the moment, but the effort displayed by their team is one of which they should be proud.
And now, this...