The New York Islanders had a two goal lead after 20 minutes, faced adversity in the second period, and fought through the third to come out on top against the Washington Capitals 3-2 at Verizon Center Tuesday.
For the second time this season, the Islanders allowed the Capitals to tie a game at 2-2 before John Tavares netted the game-winning goal in the third period. Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves, and three blocked shots in the final 1:08 of play secured the 15th Islanders win of the season. The victory moves the Islanders to 9-4-1 on the road, and puts them in ninth place, two points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It was a big road win, and a great way to start the road trip,” center John Tavares said. “It’s great, but the focus has to be on the next one. It’s one game at a time, and we need as many wins as we can get here.”
Michael Grabner’s 11th goal of the season gave the Islanders an early 1-0 lead. A strong forecheck by Keith Aucoin led to a turnover by Washington’s John Carlson, and Aucoin found Grabner wide open in the slot. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby was unable to slide across the crease fast enough to stop Grabner’s one-timer at 5:24 of the first period.
Josh Bailey doubled the away team’s lead two minutes later with his third tally in the last five games. Frans Nielsen made a pass from behind the Washington goal to Kyle Okposo on the left side, who found Bailey on the other side of the zone. Bailey stopped the puck and snapped one high past Holtby, making it 2-0.
The Islanders maintained their two-goal advantage until the midway mark of the second, when Mike Ribeiro scored to bring Washington within one. Troy Brouwer’s pass from along the right wing boards hit Ribeiro in the circle, who deftly stickhandled around an Islander while cutting to the net. The first Capitals shot of the period went just inside the left post.
Three minutes later, John Carlson’s one timer from the right point tied the game. Marcus Johansson made the pass to Carlson, whose fifth tally of the season went underneath Nabokov as he slid side-to-side.
The teams skated in a deadlock until Tavares 20th goal of the season put the Islanders in front. Matt Moulson forced the puck off of Capitals defenseman Mike Green, and dropped a pass back to Tavares. The centerman one-timed it from the right faceoff dot through Karl Alzner and over Holtby at 14:42, making the score 3-2.
“It was a simple play,” Tavares said. “We got the puck in deep. Green mishandled it, and Moulson got his stick in there. I just called for it, and my mind was set that I wanted to let it go and use the defender as a screen. I wanted to get a good shot on net. I don’t think Holtby ever saw it.”
Moulson’s assist was his ninth in as many games, and the 100th of his career. The milestone comes just 17 days after Tavares netted his 100th career goal, also against the Capitals.
With Holtby pulled for the extra attacker, Washington was unable to register a shot on goal over the final 1:38. Lubomir Visnovsky, Kyle Okposo and Travis Hamonic each blocked shot attempts, and a final clear as time expired sealed the victory.
Head Coach Jack Capuano said the key to keeping Washington’s high-powered offensive attack at bay was containing its big guns.
“You look at Ribeiro, Ovechkin and Backstrom – they’ve got some firepower, with Brooks Laich back in their lineup and Mike Green on the back end,” Capuano said. “We tried to keep them to the outside. They had some zone time, there’s no question. But we didn’t give them much when they had it, and we blocked some key shots when we had to.”
With the first game of a four-game road trip in the rear view mirror, the Islanders head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers Thursday, March 28. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. in the City of Brotherly Love.
Notes: the Islanders were 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Capitals went 0-for-3 … The Islanders outshot Washington 31-22, and 24-13 over the final 40 minutes … Andrew MacDonald led all players with 25:21 of ice time … Matt Moulson had a game-high six shots … The Islanders won 27-of-52 faceoffs, due in large part to Frans Nielsen (8-of-12) and Marty Reasoner (5-of-6) … The Islanders blocked 26 shots … Matt Carkner led all players with five hits.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
90 Marcus Johansson - 19 Nicklas Backstrom - 8 Alex Ovechkin
20 Troy Brouwer - 9 Mike Ribeiro - 21 Brooks Laich
25 Jason Chimera - 85 Mathieu Perrault - 17 Wojtek Wolski
26 Matt Hendricks - 83 Jay Beagle - 42 Joel Ward
27 Karl Alzner - 52 Mike Green
38 Jack Hillen - 74 John Carlson
81 Dmitry Orlov - 61 Steve Oleksy
70 Braden Holtby
30 Michal Neuvirth