The Washington Capitals’ last visit to Nassau Coliseum is one that Washington would like to forget: an 8-4 New York Islanders win on April Fool’s Day. That game was by far the Caps’ worst of the season — the defense was a mess and the team just fell apart. The Capitals arrived at the rink tonight looking for redemption on Long Island, but it wasn’t going to be an easy matchup.
After two games as a healthy scratch, Jakub Vrana has drawn back into the lineup. Jake the Snake said that he was disappointed to be out of the lineup for a few days, but hopefully he lets that fuel him tonight. The Caps also continue to rotate their netminders, with Vitek Vanecek tending the twine for Washington tonight. The lineup looked something like this tonight:
Capitals lines vs Islanders:— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) April 6, 2021
Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Vitek Vanecek looked really great in net tonight, making 38 saves on 39 shots. Yes, he had a bit of help from the post a few times, but he also made some excellent saves. The Isles had some grade-A chances throughout the game, but Vanecek was sharp and reliable, especially in the third period to try and keep Washington in the game. 20 of Vanecek’s saves came in the third period alone.
Minus: The Capitals might have played a much tighter defensive game tonight, but their offense suffered in exchange.
And now, happy Opening Day, Nationals fans!
it is Opening Day somewhere... pic.twitter.com/bTQ9McfD8l— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 6, 2021
Eight more notes on the game:
1. 6:02 into the first period, Tom Wilson took the game’s first trip to the sin bin when he was called for tripping against Jordan Eberle. The Islanders had one shot (and one post ping) on their power play, but the Caps’ penalty kill got the job done and kept the Isles off the board.
2. With just 16.4 seconds left in the first, Mat Barzal was called for interference on Nic Dowd. The Caps’ top power play unit jumped out there to finish out the period, and they came out fresh for the remaining 1:44 of power play time to kick off the second period. The Caps only had one shot on the man-advantage, but some guy named Jakub Vrana did get a few good looks on the second unit and then right after the power play expired.
3. Anthony Beauvillier got called for closing his hand on the puck just under halfway into the second, so the Caps got their second power play chance of the night. Once again, the Capitals only recorded one shot on the man-advantage, this one from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington’s power play? Still struggling, folks!
4. After 40 minutes of play, neither team had managed to find the back of the net and the game remained knotted at 0-0. Has it been the most exciting night of hockey from the Capitals? No, but it has also been much better than the last time the Caps were on Long Island, so they’ll take it. In particular, the Capitals played a pretty solid second period after a bit of a sleepy first 20 minutes. They look much better defensively, now the offense just needs to catch up.
5. Carl Hagelin took a slashing penalty 4:34 into the third period, so the Washington penalty kill got to work for the second time tonight. They would be without a top penalty killer in Hagelin, who leads the Capitals in shorthanded ice time this season, but fear not. The Isles got three shots off on their power play, but Vanecek and the PK unit delivered and held them off. The Caps’ PK is now perfect in six of their last seven games.
6. After 53:05, Brock Nelson finally broke the ice and and got the Islanders on the board. The Capitals couldn’t clear the puck and Nelson was able to pounce on a messy rebound in front of Vanecek to put New York up with 6:55 to go. Despite looking like a brick wall all night, Vanecek is still struggling with his rebound control.
7. Brenden Dillon did not have a great game tonight, folks. He was not focused, and at times he just seemed lost on the ice. Additionally, while Carl Hagelin might have taken the Caps’ penalty in the third, it was Dillon who got absolutely walked in the defensive zone on the play.
8. The Caps pulled Vitek Vanecek towards the end of the game, but they unfortunately could not take advantage of the extra attacker on the ice. Isles win 1-0.
Up next for the Capitals: a rare one-off against the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena this Thursday evening.