John Tavares summarized Tuesday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals best:
“When we let them get a couple goals and get within one, it seemed like we tightened up,” Tavares said. “We didn’t stay on the pedal and try to finish them off.”
The Islanders seemed to have a lot working for them. They had friendly bounces, a working power play with ample opportunity, a pair of three-goal leads and even a shootout, but came out of Tuesday’s action with a single point.
Matt Hendricks completed the Capitals comeback in the fourth round of the shootout. He avoided a poke-check to backhand the winner past Evgeni Nabokov and handed the Islanders their fourth straight loss.
“This is another one of those difficult games to digest,” Travis Hamonic said. “We were up 4-1. We can’t be having that at this point in the season. That’s all you can say.”
Much like their last three games, the Islanders started off with promise, taking advantage of two friendly bounces in the first period. Matt Moulson’s 30th goal of the season ricocheted off the glass behind the net, and hit a surprised Michal Neuvirth before crossing the goal line. Late in the first, Hamonic deflected a shot from near the goal line off the skate of John Carlson for the 2-0 lead.
Tavares then scored twice in 2:39 in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career. Between goals, Mike Knuble tipped home a Dennis Wideman slap shot to put the Capitals on the board. At the midway mark of the game, the Capitals had managed only nine shots on goal.
The Islanders were poised to take a 4-1 advantage into the second intermission before Alex Ovechkin cut the deficit to two and effectively put the Capitals back in the game.
“We had this one in good control,” Moulson said. “We eased up a bit and they are a good scoring team. They put a couple in and they kept coming.”
In the third period, the Capitals wasted no time applying pressure to the Islanders, resulting in a Dmitry Orlov goal at the 1:51 mark. Midway through the period, Ovechkin one-timed a Keith Aucoin pass and pressured Nabokov for two rebounds, converting the second one for the tying goal.
“We talked about Ovechkin all night,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “You have to recognize who you are out against. He was able to get a couple of chances and when he did, it was in the back of the net.”
Ovechkin also scored in the shootout, along with Tavares. Islanders shootout ace Frans Nielsen hit the post after beating Neuvirth with his trademark backhand on the first attempt of the tiebreaker.
The loss cast a shadow over several Islanders accomplishments Tuesday night. Moulson’s 30th tally marked the third straight season he recorded 30 or more goals, the first Islander since Ziggy Palffy did it in the 1995-96 and 1997-98 seasons. Tavares also set new highs in goals (30) and points (69) while Hamonic set a career high with his first three-point game. The Islanders power play went 2-5 and they were never down a man.
The Islanders play their last home game for two weeks on Thursday as they host the Philadelphia Flyers in the teams’ last meeting this season. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.