The Capitals concluded the mentors trip, but if it was any indication maybe these guys should stick around a little longer as Washington defeated the New York Islanders 4-1, extending their winning streak to six straight and seven of their last eight in the good.
Here’s Monday’s Plus/Minus:
Minus: Washington committed four penalties on the evening, including three in the second period.
Plus: The short-handed (literal in all senses) PK unit stood up strong and did not allow a goal.
And now this...
Just 36 seconds into the contest, the Capitals surrendered the first goal of the game on the Islanders’ first shot, a backhander by Valtteri Filppula that extended his point streak to three games as he caught John Carlson and Michal Kempny on their heels.
“Top Line” Tommy Wilson responded in kind under three minutes later extending his goal-scoring streak to four games, going five hole on Thomas Greiss to even the score at one apiece.
Nicklas Backstrom assisted on the goal, recording his 825th point in 839th career game which tied Peter Bondra for second-most points all-time in franchise history.
The Caps kept the pressure on for the duration of the first period, dominating in scoring chances (24-14), takeaways (1-0) and shots on goal (12-8). Remarkably there were just 12 total faceoffs in the period, leading to long stretches of uninterrupted play.
After a very guilty Alex Ovechkin was sent to the sin bin without any protestations just moments into the second period, and Washington was the beneficiary of a correct no-goal call as Matt Niskanen saved the puck off the goal line much to the chagrin of the home fans who were sprinkled sparsely around the arena.
After killing off another penalty the fourth line struck as Nic Dowd collected in a sneaky drop pass from Dmitrij Jaskin which he then deposited over the catching mitt of Greiss for their first lead of the evening.
Despite taking three fewer shots through two periods including being out chanced 10-3 in the second, Washington sustained more blocked shots (14-7) as a function of three penalties in the stanza. New York continued their sloppy play giving the puck away twelve times to the Caps’ five through two periods.
Washington began the third period short-handed as Devante Smith-Pelly was absent from the bench, likely having suffered an injury on a tough blocked shot midway through the second period. Tom Wilson picked up the Caps’ fourth penalty of the night on an interference call on the doorstep that he, and I imagine his father Kevin, was none to pleased with, though Washington kept the Isles off the scoreboard on the man-advantage.
Washington finally picked up their first power play of the game at 12:04 in the third, and then a trip on Nick Backstrom by Thomas Hickey made it an extended 5-on-3 for over a minute and a half. Entering the game the Caps were two-of-two on the two-man advantage, though they were unable to tally a goal before the first penalty expired because of two tough net-front shots by Johnny Boychuk.
After a timeout to reset the power play, Tom Wilson playing in T.J. Oshie’s center pivot point scored his second goal of the game with assists on crisp passes from Backstrom, moving him all alone as second all time in franchise history, and Carlson to give Washington the two-goal lead.
In the game’s waining moments, Ovi picked up the empty netter to salt away the victory by the final score of 4-1.
Ten more notes on the game:
1. The biggest story of the day for the Capitals’ was the metaphorical running into their ex-significant other at a bar and buying them a drink. Except in this case instead of a jilted lover, it was former Head Coach Barry Trotz (with wingmen Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn) and instead of a drink it was a Stanley Cup ring. Plenty has been written about the conscious uncoupling of team and coach, but it was a heartfelt moment in the locker room before the contest for Trotz to return to address his former players and to receive a ring and a nice hug from Alex Ovechkin.
2. Is there anything better than the Mentor’s Trip? Honestly, if they had a picture-in-picture of the dads (and in Andre Burakovsky’s case, his grandpa!) nervously sitting together while they watch their sons playing the game, I would pay at least what it costs to sit in the passenger seat of the that Barclays Center SUV to watch. Tonight was the final game of their 11th consecutive Mentor’s Trip, and since 2008 the Capitals have posted a 15-6-0 record with their mentors in the building.
3. With Evgeny Kuznetzov and T.J. Oshie both missing their seventh straight games, and Brooks Orpik on the shelf for his 14th consecutive contest, the opportunities continued to pile up for depth players to make an impact. Results have been at times inconsistent for the last few weeks, but tonight Dmitrij Jaskin and Nic Dowd produced the Capitals second goal of the evening while Travis Boyd, Michal Kempny and Madison Bowey got significant minutes and did a nice job with lots of time matched up against the Islanders top line of Matthew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Bailey. Ultimately it’s a very nice problem to have, as coach Todd Reirden will have to make some hard choices as to who will earn a sweater when his squad is fully healthy.
4. The Capitals continued the trend of strong second periods, and with Dowd’s marker stay atop the NHL with 35 second-period goals this season. Washington has now recorded a goal in the second period in 22 of the 24 contests this year, and was key in overcoming the Islanders’ just goal moments into the contest.
5. John Carlson continued to show why he is going to make some serious noise in the Norris Trophy discussion this season. With his second-period assist, he extended his scoring streak, and has now posted points in five of his last six games and is one point ahead with Nicklas Backstrom with 26 points, good for second on the team just two behind Ovi. His second assist tied him with Kevin Hatcher (277) for third most assists by a defenseman in franchise history and is one points away from passing Mike Green (360) for fifth most points by a d-man as a Cap.
6. After looking a little bit shaky to start the game Braden Holtby made some stellar saves in the later stages of the game to secure the victory. All told, stopped the final 26 shots he faced on the evening. If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times but Holts has kept Washington in so many games over his tenure in DC, it’s hard to imagine if this team would be where they are without #70 between the pipes.
7. For the fourth straight game, Washington was out-shot but still found a way to win. Tonight the Islanders put 33 pucks on net to just 24 for the Capitals. This is undoubtedly a function of Oshie and Kuzy’s absences, and would likely be a serious cause for concern if they weren’t ending up with results in the win column. Instead, let’s just say it’s an example of gritty defensive play and the ability to withstand pressure? Sure, let’s go with that.
8. Tom Wilson continued his revenge tour with his fifth-career two-goal game. He has now scored in six straight outings with 11 points in eight games since returning from his suspension. As a point of comparison, “Two-Goal Tom” needed 36 games to get to the six-goal mark a year ago.
9. Despite having a bevy of chances, the Capitals penalty kill held the Islanders without a power play goal for their fifth straight game. In fact, since Tom Wilson has returned (coincidence? I think not…) the Capitals have now killed off 24 of 27 penalties they’ve faced, which is over 15 percent higher than they did without Wilson in the lineup.
10. With the victory, Washington has now earned a point in 15 of their last 18 contests against the Islanders (12-4-3), with Alex Ovechkin leading the way with 53 points on 35 goals and 18 assists in 51 career contests against their division foe. The winning streak of six games surpasses any consecutive total they had a year ago, when they won five games in a row on two separate occasions.
The Capitals will return home to face the Devils on Friday night at Capital One Arena and will look to continue their winning streak. If they can do it without their dads giving awkward hugs and confusing fist-bumps for handshakes remains to be seen, but hopefully their hot streak will continue back in D.C.
Sorry, Barry. Enjoy the ring. Love you forever.— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) November 27, 2018