Washington Capitals hockey is back, folks! After a rare three-day break after Sunday’s rough matinee loss to the Bruins, the Capitals are back at it again tonight, facing the New York Islanders for the sixth time this season. The last time the Caps and Isles saw each other was a low-scoring affair with the Islanders winning 1-0.
Justin Schultz did not travel to Long Island with the Capitals after sustaining a lower-body injury on Sunday afternoon, so Trevor van Riemsdyk got to stay in the lineup after replacing Zdeno Chara. Michael Raffl, acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, has been out of the lineup due to an upper-body injury since the deadline but would be making his Capitals’ debut tonight. Raffl slotted in as the right winger on the third line, replacing Daniel Sprong:
Capitals lines vs NYI:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) April 22, 2021
Vitek Vanecek was in net when the Caps last faced the Isles, but Ilya Samsonov was patrolling the crease tonight opposite Semyon Varlamov. Another lineup note: Travis Zajac, traded to the Islanders with Kyle Palmieri earlier this month, was a healthy scratch for Barry Trotz tonight with Leo Komarov drawing into the lineup instead.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Ilya Samsonov have yourself a night, my goodness. He pretty much won the game by himself tonight, posting a 26-save shutout and going 2-for-3 in the shootout. Samsonov also stole the first period for the Capitals, who played an uninspired first 20 minutes tonight, and he was a vital part of the successful penalty kill.
Minus: Offense? What offense? Never heard of her.
And now, a dad joke for the ages in honor of Michael Raffl’s Caps’ debut:
"you know what i did last night? i went to the gas station to buy Raffl-tickets"— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 22, 2021
dads got jokes pic.twitter.com/afefEV4Nfa
Ten more notes on the game:
1. 12:16 into the first, Scott Mayfield took the evening’s first penalty after tripping Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals’ power play is at a league-best 27.6% on the season, and the Islanders’ PK is ranked tenth-best at 82.5%. Alex Ovechkin recorded Washington’s lone shot on goal on the man-advantage, but the Islanders’ PK came out on top of this matchup.
2. The Islanders had a 15-4 shot advantage in the first period, but Ilya Samsonov was incredible and kept New York off the board. His best moment of the period came with just a minute and a half left, when he stopped Mat Barzal not once but twice on a breakaway:
3. Mat Barzal was caught with a high-stick on Zdeno Chara with 6:31 left in the second period, sending the Capitals on the power play once again. However, Barzal probably should not have taken a trip to the box because Nic Dowd essentially lifted Barzal’s stick into Chara’s face. This power play chance looked a lot like the Caps’ first one of the game: they had some decent looks but Ovechkin recorded the only shot on goal.
4. Third time’s the charm, perhaps? With 2:41 left, Noah Dobson took a delay of game penalty after sending the puck over the glass and made New York’s third trip to the sin bin. Washington’s power play hasn’t looked too bad tonight, but the puck wasn’t settling at all during this man-advantage opportunity. This is now the second-straight game in which the Capitals and Islanders have gone scoreless through 40 minutes.
5. The second period shot differential was much better for Washington, favoring the Caps 15-7. The Caps also led the Isles in shot attempts 23-9. All in all, a much better period of play for Washington.
6. Lars Eller took the Capitals’ first penalty of the evening after an offensive-zone tripping penalty on Nick Leddy nine minutes into the third. The Caps’ PK is at 83.5% on the season, seventh-best in the league, and the Isles’ power play is seventh-worst at 17.3%. Despite having one of their top penalty killers in the box, Washington’s PK remained solid and held New York off the board. Of note: Ilya Samsonov made an excellent left pad save on Kyle Palmieri driving to the net, and Michael Raffl got some shorthanded ice time.
7. About a minute after Eller’s penalty expired, Alex Ovechkin got dinged for his own offensive-zone tripping penalty on Brock Nelson. The Caps’ PK had a bit less control this time around, but they still did plenty to take time and space away from the Islanders’ power play and keep them from breaking the ice. Still 0-0 with 6:11 to go.
8. 60 minutes would not be enough to decide the extra point tonight — the Caps and Isles needed overtime after remaining tied at 0-0 through regulation and grabbing a point each. Laviolette elected to start Lars Eller, Anthony Mantha, and John Carlson in overtime, but it was all Islanders for the first three minutes of OT and almost all Islanders for the last two. However, despite almost never touching the puck, the Caps were good defensively.
9. Jordan Eberle: miss. T.J. Oshie: miss. Anthony Beauvillier: goal. Nicklas Backstrom: goal. Brock Nelson: miss. Evgeny Kuznetsov: a goal and the win! The Caps took two points in a hard-fought game.
10. Tonight is Zdeno Chara’s 1,599th career NHL game, so assuming he remains in the lineup for Saturday’s game, Big Zee will become just the thirteenth NHL player to reach the 1,600 game mark. He will join Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as the only active players in that club.
Up next for the Capitals: another 7pm tilt on Long Island this Saturday.