For the fourth straight time the Caps have gone to Long Island with Coach Bruce Boudreau behind the bench the contest went to overtime and for the third consecutive time he left victorious as Mike Green, who I thought had his best game of the season, skated from his own goal line through the Islander team and then fed a pass into the slot that went off of Brooks Laich and into the net for the overtime winner. The Caps 3-2 victory pushes their record to 6-2-2 while the Islanders, who lost a 2-0 third period lead, fell to 1-4-4.
The only reason Washington had a chance to win this game was because of the outstanding goaltending from Jose Theodore, who made 28 saves, including some on quality chances. Theo, who missed the last two plus games due to back spasms, earned his second win of the season, compared to four for fellow Caps goalie Semyon Varlamov, but anyone who has watched the first 10 games will tell you that #60 is the clear #1 goalie at this point in time.
Boudreau was not happy with his power play, which went for 0 for 7 and gave up a shorthanded goal in Atlanta on Thursday, coming into Saturday’s game. After tonight he will be even madder as the unit struggled mightily again and also gave up another shorthanded goal when defenseman Radek Martinek scored on a 3 on 2 rush (Alexander Ovechkin and Green were back) to give the Isles a 1-0 first period lead. Nicklas Backstrom was slow coming back down the ice so a steaming Boudreau then benched the first power play group and put five different players out for the remainder of the power play. The Caps also had an 18 second two man advantage in the second period but failed to score. On the evening the power play unit, which was 2nd overall in the NHL last season, went 0 for 4. Think they miss Alexander Semin (out with illness and soreness)?
The Islanders made it 2-0 just 3:44 in to the third period as center Josh Bailey beat Nicklas Backstrom on the face-off and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn allowed Jeff Tambellini to not only get to the front of the net but also let him get his stick free and deflect the puck past Theodore for a 2-0 lead. Morrisonn, if he is going to give up position there, has to have his own stick in a better place to defend the Islander forward, but instead he had it up in the air and nowhere near Tambellini’s twig.
Washington finally got on the board and back into the game just over two minutes later when Green scored on a blast to the top left corner off of a nice drop pass from Mike Knuble after an excellent cross ice feed from Brooks Laich sprung #22 across the Islanders blue line. This play was a thing of beauty and definitely energized Washington. Green’s shot was an absolutely perfect one.
Then with just over 7 minutes to go in the regulation, Ovechkin drove to the net after a Keith Aucoin shot was dropped by Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson. As #8 collided with the Islander defender and went crashing into the right pipe, Aucoin swooped in to grab the puck behind the goal and as he tried to center it from outside the left post it hit Bailey of the Isles and went into the net to tie the game at two.
Ovechkin and Backstrom then both had glorious chances to win the game in the last minute of regulation but #19’s blast hit Roloson in the mask while the Great #8 bombed a quality scoring opportunity wide of the net and once again the Caps and Islanders went to overtime.
Here are some notes and analysis on tonight’s Caps victory:
Morrisonn not only played the Tambellini goal poorly but he also took a terrible tripping penalty as the first period expired. This penalty is one you can put on video and categorize as DUMB since it came with 0% chance of an Islander scoring opporunity. #26 needs to pay better attention to the clock and the game situation. The Caps only other penalty was lazy as Ovechkin hooked John Tavares in scoring position but the Great #8 would not have had to take that infraction had he back checked a little bit harder. Ovie was only a stride from the 1st overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft on the way back up the ice and should not have needed to put his stick on #91 in that situation. The Islanders went 0 for 2 on the power play as the Caps penalty killing unit continues to excel (8th overall in the NHL at 83% efficiency).
Washington was absolutely killed from the face-off dot, 46-20, and as mentioned above it cost them a goal. Dave Steckel, who is the Caps best face-off man, was 4-11 while Backstrom went 7-18, Aucoin was 3-5, Brendan Morrison went 6-9 and Laich was 0-3.
Aucoin only had 8:47 of ice time but he sure was noticeable in a positive way. His 1:18 of power play time was the only one that the Caps had sustained pressure on the Islanders in their zone. Aucoin had the game tying tally tonight and will eventually get credit for two assists in the Thrashers win on Thursday. That is 3 points in under 15 minutes of ice time, perhaps he warrants some more time this week?
Matt Bradley did not have a point in just over 13 minutes of ice time but he sure played well finishing his checks and going to the net. #10 is off to a very good start this season with three goals, two assists and is +4.
The Islanders were very aggressive with their penalty killing and as a result the Caps struggled to get set up on the PP. They also did not allow Ovechkin to have much time with the puck. However, they did give the Caps defenseman some room and although it took awhile, Washington exploited that and it aided in the come from behind win. I can’t help but wonder how dangerous this defense will be offensively when sharp shooting 19 year old defenseman John Carlson works his way up from Hershey to the NHL?
Next up for the Caps are the Philadelphia Flyers at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. There is no doubt the intensity will be high and it should rival that of a playoff game. Simply put: those two teams do not like each other. Also, the Flyers could be without forward Mike Richards, who hit Florida forward David Booth with his shoulder and knocked the Panther out in their 5-1 win on Saturday. The hit received a five minute major and a game misconduct. The Flyers face the Sharks in Philadelphia on Sunday before coming to DC.