|Goaltender||Record||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||Braden Holtby||1-4-1||1.88 / .941|
|New York Islanders||Semyon Varlamov||6-1-0||0.94 / .957|
Game 4 between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders is a do-or-die, win-or-go-home elimination game. If the Caps lose on Tuesday evening, it will be for the second time in back-to-back years that Washington is sent home during the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It would be the first time in Capitals franchise history that the team was swept in the first round, in having not won a single game (mcubed). If hypothetically, Washington does win, and by some miracle wins the series, it would be just the 5th time in NHL history that a team came back from being down 0-3 to win four straight (Wormeli, 2020).
Since resuming play in the bubble, the Caps have won just one game (Boston, round robin), and have been outscored 11-3 in the first round. That trend continued in a 2-1 overtime loss against the Islanders on Sunday. Head-coach Todd Reirden made some fairly significant changes in the lineup across the defensive pairs, but not as much among forwards. 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 earned spots on the lineup. It’s difficult to say if the Capitals played any better in Game 3, but they did allow just one goal in 60 minutes of regulation. Braden Holtby continued to shine (all things considered), and it appeared as though the Caps defense played with more ease since re-establishing a left-right alignment (all defensemen playing their dominant side). At the 14:50 mark of the first period, Anders Lee got the Islanders on the board first with his 3rd of the post-season after Holtby was faced with making one-too-many saves and being drawn out from his crease. 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 during the first period.
New York was gifted five power-play opportunities, and the Capitals successfully killed off all five. The penalty kill truly has been the bright spot of this post-season, and yes, that sounds like a broken record, but for being the 3rd most penalized team during the playoffs, having the best PK of all remaining teams (95.5%) is something to cheer about (ESPN). Washington’s first power play of the afternoon came just beyond the five-minute mark of the second period, and 40 seconds into the man-advantage Evgeny Kuznetsov tied the game 1-1 with his 2nd of the playoffs. With the tying goal, Kuznetsov has six goals in 11 games versus the Islanders. The Capitals received just one more power-play and didn’t convert, and as a result, went 1-for-2 with the man-advantage. With the game remaining tied throughout the third period, overtime was needed to determine a winner. For the second time in the game, a Capitals forward had an opportunity to score the game-winning goal. But this time, a failed opportunity on a breakaway by Jakub Vrana led to a turnover and the game-winner being scored by none other than Mat Barzal to lift the Isles over the Caps. Yes, Jakub Vrana. The one who’s lazy turnover on Friday led to a breakaway goal by Brock Nelson.
Washington was outshot 34-23 and was held to just four shots on goal in the third period. Is it still to be determined if the Caps will go with Holtby on Tuesday, or if in a too-little-too-late last ditch effort will play Vitek Vanecek. Nicklas Backstrom is a game-time decision, and Martin Fehervary will not dress tonight.
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
ESPN.com. (2020). 2019-20 NHL Hockey Stats and League Leaders. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nhl/statistics/team/_/stat/special-teams/sort/penaltyKillPct.
Mcubed. (2020). Washington Capitals : records per season. Retrieved from http://mcubed.net/nhl/wsh/yryr.shtml.
Wormeli, R. (August 16, 2020). Here are the NHL teams that have come back from 3-0 deficits to win their series. Retrieved from https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/capitals/here-are-nhl-teams-have-come-back-3-0-deficits-win-their-series