Coming From Behind is Rough, But Fun

Posted February 28, 2012

Even you, Schultzy. Photo by Taylor Lewis

A match against the New York Islanders is not one that most in Washington are circling at the beginning of the year. But when that game comes for a team barely hanging into the playoff race, it means everything.

Brooks Laich watched the in-house league scoreboard as the Florida Panthers steadily advanced in Toronto. As the Islanders scored once, then twice–with no response from the Capitals, Laich and the team knew Tuesday’s game meant more than a flashy comeback. “Maybe you look back and 20 games from now, it’s the game that sways the season. You have to take care of business at home,” he said.

No game has proven easy for the Caps as of late, so the 3-2 overtime win over even the 27th-placed Islanders wasn’t one to take lightly. Despite the quick start (the Caps outshot the Isles 13-3 in the first period), Josh Bailey claimed the New York lead less than five minutes into the game.

While the Islanders were able to even the ice somewhat by the end of the second, there only remained Bailey’s goal, though Jay Beagle led the Caps by play.

Even after Alex Ovechkin‘s thriller OT winner, Beagle remained the shot leader of the game, with five total, the same number in the three games of his 2008-09 season.

Three of those shots came in the first period. “We got to have those kinds of starts and we knew that. Even though they scored the first goal, we wanted to come out flying,” said the 26-year-old winger.

Despite the effort, the power play was still a sore spot. On four chances, Washington could come up with nothing, almost giving up a short-handed goal after Mathieu Perreault inadvertently gave the puck away.

The penalty kill, on the other hand, was rather effective. In their three man-advantage chances, New York was wholly ineffective, thanks to the “scrappy” play of the killers and Michal Neuvirth playing solid in net.

Neuvirth has provided some tough competition for the Caps supposed starting goalie, Tomas Vokoun, with three straight wins and a .939 save percent average in those games. “I feel great. It wasn’t the style I was looking for, but I stayed with it and I [played] hard,” said the Czech native.

Troy Brouwer also played in his 300th game and broke a 14-game scoring drought with two goals, including one to tie the game with 26 seconds left.

The win begins a five-game homestand for Washington, which includes a game against playoff hungry Tampa Bay and a Friday match against the New Jersey Devils, now seeded just one above the eighth-place Caps.