The Islanders dominated play in the third period, breaking open a 2-2 game with three goals over the final eight minutes to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
John Tavares scored his 99th and 100th career goals during extended third-period power plays, and Frans Nielsen scored a late shorthanded marker, improving the Islanders record to 11-11-3 (25 points). Evgeni Nabokov stopped 22-of-24 shots to give the Islanders points in five straight contests (3-0-2).
“We just had to bury every chance we had,” Casey Cizikas said. “We had to get on rebounds, make it hard on [Washington goaltender Philipp Grubbauer], and get in his eyes. I thought we did a good job of that tonight, especially on the power play with the big goals we had in the third. We were doing a good job getting on those second chances and getting in from of the net.”
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead halfway through the opening frame on Josh Bailey’s second goal of the season. Frans Nielsen led a two-on-one from the neutral zone and deked around a defenseman before sliding a pass across to Bailey. The Bowmanville, ON native chipped the puck past Grubbauer, who was making his first NHL start, at 10:46.
The Capitals tied things early in the second period with a power-play goal. Joel Ward got credit for the makrer after the puck bounced through the crease and deflected in off Travis Hamonic’s skate. Mathieu Perrault and John Carlson assisted on the goal.
Casey Cizikas’ third tally of the season put the Islanders back on top again midway through the period. Colin McDonald forced a turnover at center ice and the puck wound up on Matt Martin's stick. He dished to Cizikas on the right side and the rookie’s shot beat Grubbauer to make it 2-1.
Nicklas Backstrom finished off a slick passing play by Eric Fehr and Karl Alzner to tie the game. His one-timer went over Nabokov at the 7:09 mark of the third, making it 2-2.
The ice had tilted in the Capitals favor until Mike Ribeiro was whistled for hi-sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct minors at 8:48. In the final minute of the four-minute power play, Tavares put home a rebound off Brad Boyes’ shot to put the Islanders back on top.
Just 30 seconds later, after Jeff Schultz had been assessed a double-minor for hi-sticking to put the Islanders on another power play, Tavares scored again to double the lead. The shot was initially ruled no goal, and play continued for almost three more minutes until Matt Moulson put the puck in the back of the net with four minutes left in regulation.
Following Moulson’s apparent goal, Tavares’ shot from earlier in the power play was reviewed and ruled a goal. Moulson’s goal was ruled null and the officials reset the clock to read 7:17.
The marker was the 100th of Tavares career – a milestone he reached in his 268th career game. The Islanders center said it was crucial for the team to convert on their power play opportunities to put the game away.
“I think when we’re skating and moving the puck, we make it difficult on other teams,” Tavares said. When we can’t create opportunities, they generate their own momentum. We had good puck movement and even when there were battles, we kept skating and making it tough on them. We had some good passes and shots that eventually broke their coverage down, and with the extra man, you’re able to get some good opportunities.”
Washington went to the man advantage later in the period, but nine seconds into the penalty, Frans Nielsen broke down the right wing on a two-on-one with Michael Grabner and buried a shot top shelf to make it 5-2 with three minutes to play.
The win wraps up the Islanders longest home stand of the season at 3-2-2. The team heads to the road to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday, March 10 at 7:00.
Notes: The Islanders outshot the Capitals 19-5 in the third period and 45-24 overall … The Islanders went 2-for-6 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill … Brad Boyes finished the game with two assists … Mark Streit led the team with 23:17 of ice time … The Islanders controlled the faceoff battle 33-29, with Marty Reasoner winning 8-of-13 (62%) … Matt Martin landed eight hits, matching the output of the entire Washington team.
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