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Caps Make Things Interesting on The Island
The true test of a team is seeing what happens when adversity is thrown in its face and how it overcomes it or buckles under the pressure. Tuesday, the Capitals saw adversity when down 4-2 with only 20 minutes to play, and responded with a 5-4 shootout win against the New York Islanders.
In the first period, the Islanders went up 1-0 after a fluky goal when a puck caromed off of the glass behind netminder Michal Neuvirth, hit him in the chest, and dribbled over the goal line. “It’s like, what do you do? I call them hockey plays” head coach Dale Hunter said after the game, in reference to the rough goal. The Capitals had a lot of trouble keeping the puck in the offensive zone, making life tough for Neuvirth. After Jay Beagle was called for the first of his three penalties, Travis Hamonic scored on the ensuing power play, making it 2-0 heading into the locker room.
“It’s a hockey game and it’s good sign for us we didn’t stop play and we came back,” said Alex Ovechkin about the Caps deficit most of the game. In the second period, the game opened up and there were more rushes on both ends of the ice. Ovechkin was called for a tripping penalty at 8:59 of the second, giving the Islanders their fourth power play of the night. On the ensuing faceoff, Islanders sniper John Tavares ripped a shot past Neuvirth to make it 3-0. Seconds later, Dennis Wideman blasted the puck that ended up going off of Mike Knuble and past starting Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. It was Knuble’s first goal since December 5th.
“I’ve had several chances to score, like up in Boston,” said Knuble. “When you go to the net, things happen.” At 11:44 of the period, Tavares beat Neuvirth again for his 30th goal of the season for a 4-1 New York lead. In the final minute of the frame, Ovechkin netted his first of the game to cut the deficit to 4-2 heading into the 3rd.
“I was out of the room,” said Hunter when asked what he said to the team in the second intermission. Knuble chimed, “It’s not just one guy. There are a few guys who motivate the team.”
In the third period, the Capitals put pressure on the Islanders and it paid dividends. At 1:51, Dmitry Orlov scored his third goal of the season to pull the Caps within one. The Nassau Coliseum got noticeably quieter as the crowd sensed the Islanders could blow a lead for the second game in a row. At 10:15, it happened. Ovechkin buried the tying goal past Nabokov. After a flurry by the Islanders in the final minute, Neuvirth held on and put the game into overtime.
In the four on four, both teams battled and had chances. The Islanders kept putting extreme pressure on Neuvirth and the Capitals, but it went to a shootout. After Tavares scored, Ovechkin came right back in the clutch and evened the shootout at one. After misses by Matt Moulson, Orlov, and Mark Streit, Matt Hendricks stood on the face-off circle at center ice and peered down on Nabokov. Hendricks’ nice breakaway moves beat Nabokov to put the stamp on the comeback. It was an important two points for the Caps and helped them keep pace with the division-leading Florida Panthers, who beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2.
The Capitals will be off on Wednesday before they practice again at Kettler Iceplex on Thursday at 10AM. Afterwards, they will fly to Winnipeg to take on the Jets on Friday evening.