The Capitals played a very strong game overall against the New York Islanders Thursday night. Beating the Islanders twice in a row on their home turf is no easy task, especially considering they were without their captain, some guy named Alexander Ovechkin - but the Caps pulled it off, with another good game and scoring from throughout the lineup.
Here’s tonight’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Without Ovechkin, the Capitals new first line consisting of Daniel Sprong, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson, dominated the the New York Islanders with three goals of their own. That’s solid work by a line missing its top goal-scorer.
Minus: The Capitals came into this game with the seventh-best penalty kill in the league but tonight they went 0/2, allowing two goals against (and gave up a shorthanded goal - again - on their lone power play chance).
And now, this:
Ovechkin last missed a game due to injury on March 5, 2015 against Minnesota because of a lower-body injury.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) April 24, 2021
He missed 4 games earlier this season while in COVID protocol. Only one previous time in his career did he miss more than 4 games in a season, when missed 10 in 2009-10. https://t.co/1fNWXju0Rr
A few more notes on the game:
1. The Capitals new first line of Sprong-Kuznetsov-Wilson put up a strong shift, creating some momentum before the fourth line came out. Garnet Hathaway capitalized on that with a sneaky but overall weak shot that somehow alluded Ilya Sorokin to put the Capitals up 1-0 less than three minutes into the game. A strong start for the Capitals.
2. Since the Capitals acquired Anthony Mantha, the line of Mantha-Backstrom-Oshie has been very good. They had a great look early in the first period but couldn’t connect, then made up for that on a beautiful passing play finished off by T.J. Oshie, giving the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
3. Though the Capitals were up by two, the Islanders still had some strong chances and Ilya Samsonov stood tall with some big saves. He was continuing his great play from the game before.
4. The Islanders drew a weak penalty late in the first, and on their power play there was net-front chaos that eventually popped the puck to noted Cap-killer, Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier got past Samsonov cutting the Capitals lead to one.
5. Overall it was a good road first period for the Capitals, save for two or three bad exit zone passes that turned into chances for the Islanders.
6. The Islanders gave the Caps a dose of their own medicine to start the second period, flipping the script a bit on the Caps’ dominant first much like the Caps did last game and penning the Caps in for a bit with sustained offensive pressure... at least in the first five minutes.
7. As noted earlier, Samsonov was very strong to start the game but he let in a very, very weak goal when defensemen Adam Pelech came in short handed and ripped a slap shot from the top of circles. The puck bounced through Samsonov’s legs and into the net... definitely a goal he would want back.
8. The Caps have some serious star-power in their lineup, but sometimes you just need your hard-working fourth line to step up big time, and they did that tonight. First they got the Caps on the board early and then extended the team’s lead back to two with the third goal of the night. Nic Dowd collected a puck in the slot, turned and ripped it top corner, with a little help from Carl Hagelin screening the goalie.
10. Then it was back to the team’s top line, with Daniel Sprong making his case once again to stay in the lineup by converting on a sweet pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov to put the Caps back up by two.
11. That two-goal lead didn’t last long, as Dmitry Orlov committed a penalty that gave the Islanders a power play - and once again the Isles cashed in. J.G. Pageau played some baseball, whacking the puck out of the air and into the net after a lucky bounce off the backboards. It should have never been a power play, of course, as Eller was tripped during the delayed call, but what can you do.
12. That top line was back at it again to start the third, and were rewarded with their second goal of the game when Kuznetsov streaked down the left wing and wristed a shot far side, through the goalie’s arm. Another tough goal for Sorokin to give up, but the Caps weren’t complaining as they regained their two-goal lead early in the third.
13. They weren’t done yet, either. About seven minutes later, Kuznetsov won an offensive zone faceoff back to Wilson, who fed the puck over to Sprong for a shot top corner and #10’s second goal of the game.
All in all, another strong outing for the Caps as they wrap up their time in New York. With tonight’s win, the Caps are back on top of the East after the Penguins briefly leap-frogged them earlier today.
Going into the Islanders’ barn where the home team has lost all of five games all season (and only two in regulation) and taking two straight is huge for the good guys. Now the three-game set with the Isles shifts back to DC, where the Caps will have a chance to sweep the mini-series - and do so in front of fans for the first time in over a year.