On the Brink: Vrana fails to deliver and Barzal wins it in OT, Caps down 0-3, facing elimination

  GoaltenderRecordGAA / SV%
Washington CapitalsBraden Holtby1-3-21.88 / .941
New York IslandersSemyon Varlamov6-1-00.94 / .957

TLDR: Jakub Vrana fails to bury on a breakaway, and Mat Barzal pots the overtime game-winner to bring the Caps one game away from elimination. Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday August 18th at 8:00pm EST.

Not saying we as Caps fans need to panic.. but we need to panic. Although Washington has the same likelihood of coming back to win a series from being down 0-2 as we do 2-0, it’s time to make some changes if we have any hope of redeeming ourselves in this series. The Capitals are 4-9 in Game 3s when trailing 0-2, so interpret that as you will.

Braden Holtby got the start between the pipes, much to the surprise of Caps fans, who thought that perhaps Vitek Vanecek would earn the opportunity to prove himself. Travis Boyd, Jonas Siegenthaler and Michal Kempny were the healthy scratches for Game 3, and as a result, Daniel Sprong, Brian Pinho, Martin Fehervary, and Radko Gudas all took warmups, and all but Sprong have earned spots on the lineup for today’s match. You can visually view the lines and defensive pairings below.

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson

Vrana – Eller – Oshie

Hagelin – Pinho – Kovalchuk

Panik – Dowd – Hathaway


Orlov – Jensen

Fehervary – Gudas


Brian Pinho made his NHL debut, and is the 5th Capitals player to do so during the playoffs. With all the changes coming on the defensive pairs, many hoped that this may be the difference maker. The Islanders received the first power play of the afternoon as Dmitry Orlov was called for interference just three minutes and 57 seconds into the first. The Caps have been called for 13 minor penalties in three games. The Isles were 1-for-9 in the series heading into today’s matchup, but with the Caps’ penalty kill, were then 1-for-10. Early on, the Capitals were being out-shot 1 to 6, which is definitely less than ideal. At the 10:38 mark, TJ Oshie then went off for slashing, giving the Isles their second man-advantage, and thus, an opportunity to score first. Thankfully, Washington held off the Islanders, keeping the score 0-0. With 5:10 remaining in the first period, Anders Lee scored his 3rd of the post-season, after a first and second chance rebounded off the goal post and the boards. Immediately after, the Capitals went back on the penalty kill as Brenden Dillon was called for slashing, but again, killed it off. With New York leading 1-0 heading into the 2nd period, the Capitals were heavily outshot 14-6.

The Capitals closest shot on goal in the first period was at the 1:47 mark and came from 40-45 feet away from the net. Not a single forward registered a shot, and if Washington was at all hoping to win today, that was going to have to change. Jean-Gabriel Pageau nearly made it 2-0 Isles, but Holtby made the save at the 4:30 mark of the middle frame. The Capitals finally received their first power play as Jordan Eberle was called for hooking at the 5:10 mark of the second. Evgeny Kuznetsov finally solved Semyon Varlamov to tie the game 1-1, with the man-advantage.

With the tying goal, Kuznetsov has six goals in 11 games versus the Islanders. Tom Wilson nearly made it 2-1 after Varlamov lost track of the puck right in front of the goal line. Radko Gudas was called for hooking, giving the Isles their 4th power play of the afternoon, with 8:50 remaining. The Caps almost scored short-handed as Tom Wilson escaped on a breakaway, but unfortunately the puck rolled on him. With Washington killing off the Isles PP, they kept the score 1-1. The Isles and Caps remained tied heading into the third period.

The final 20 minutes of this game were perhaps the most important of Washington’s season. If the Caps were to escape with a win, they would have to stop taking bad penalties, and start drawing them for more power play opportunities. Matt Martin of the Islanders was called for interference against Garnet Hathaway at the 2:34 mark, and as a result, the Caps were given their 2nd power play of the afternoon. Unfortunately, Washington would not cash in this time. Tom Wilson then was called for slashing, giving the Islanders a power-play for the 5th time. The Capitals successfully killed off their 5th minor penalty of the game. It’s hard to argue the fact that we witnessed the best of the Capitals so far, but without a win, none of that mattered. With four minutes remaining in regulation, the Islanders were outshooting the Caps 28-20. Washington registered just four shots on goal in the third period.

Overtime (1): A goal-less third period meant that this one would need sudden-death overtime to determine a winner. No one wants to be the one to make the single mistake that leads to the game-winning goal, especially in overtime. It took Washington double overtime versus the Blue Jackets to win Game 3 in 2018. What would it take this time? Jakub Vrana nearly won it on a breakaway, but just as he had so many times before, failed. And that failed opportunity led to a game-winning goal by Mat Barzal to snag Game 3 in overtime. With the win, the Islanders are one game away from sweeping the Washington Capitals.

TXHT’s Three Takeaways of the Game

  1. Again, the penalty kill is the one bright spot for the Caps this post-season. 
  2. Nick Jensen was.. good.. today. And to allow just one goal against in regulation, Reirden must have done something right. Or maybe the Capitals just cared more?
  3. Demote (or bench) Jakub Vrana.

Below is the remaining schedule vs. NYI:

Game 4: Tues. Aug. 18 at 8pm

Game 5: Thurs. Aug. 20 TBD

Game 6: Sat. Aug. 22 TBD

Game 7: Sun. Aug. 23 TBD

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