|Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||4-0-3||Vitek Vanecek||2.00 / .941|
|New York Islanders||3-3-0||Semyon Varlamov||3.05 / .919|
The Washington Capitals are hoping to build off their success in their 2nd of eight games against the New York Islanders. Despite no Tom Wilson, and losing Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller in-game, the Caps have rallied around those key players to take points in each of their first seven games for just the 2nd time in franchise history.
On Tuesday night, in one of 13 games on the schedule, the Washington Capitals defeated the New York Islanders 3-2, as Justin Schultz scored with just 26.4 seconds left in a tied game to avoid overtime for a 5th straight match. The Caps debuted their new alternate ‘third jerseys’, a tribute for the DMV and a tribute to their Winter Classic and Stadium Series uniforms from years past.
Daniel Carr made his NHL debut, and Mike Sgarbossa also took to the ice as Tom Wilson missed a second consecutive game. Carr was assigned to 4LW position, and Sgarbossa, 4C, with Daniel Sprong as 4RW. The Capitals played extremely well to start, heavy on the forecheck and staying out of the penalty box early on. With 12:22 remaining Adam Pelech of the Isles briefly left his teams’ bench with an injury. At the 10:12 mark, Matt Martin was called for tripping, and just under a minute into the man-advantage, John Carlson tallied his 2nd goal of the season to mark his 7thth point in 7 games.
The Islanders have allowed just one power play goal against in the last 18 times short-handed.
Unfortunately, with 4:27 remaining in the first period, Noah Dobson tied the game 1-1 with his first goal of the season. Washington dominated in shot attempts, doubling up the Isles 31-15 at the end of the first, and putting up 17 shots on goal to New York’s eleven (11).
Adam Pelech returned to the ice for the 2nd period, but early on, Nicklas Backstrom was hit up high via puck off the face, and quickly left the ice for a trip to the Caps locker room. The second period had been bad for the Capitals; they’ve allowed 10 goals against (28th), 78 shots allowed (29th), and 128 shot attempts (25th). Washington took just their first penalty of the game at the 7:19 mark of the middle frame, as Carl Hagelin was called for boarding. The boys in blue did however kill off the penalty, despite a high-quality shot that would ring off the posts. But just beyond 10-minute mark, another bad turnover by Zdeno Chara ended up on the stick of Mat Barzal who would pot his 3rd goal of the season to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. Then, to add fuel to the fire, Nicklas Backstrom was called for interference at the 13:24 mark. Lucky for Washington, they would kill off the penalty to keep it 2-1.
Daniel Sprong could not have ‘picked’ a more opportune time to put up his first goal as a Washington Capital, as he scored the game-tying goal with under three minutes remaining in the middle frame.
Caps fans were delighted for Sprong’s first goal as a Capital. John Carlson put up his 2nd point of the game and Daniel Carr, his first point and assist.
But with less than a minute left in the middle stanza, Lars Eller would be called for tripping, and so the Islanders began the third period on the power play. New York however would not convert, and the Capitals ended their night 3-for-3 on the penalty kill. With 12 minutes left in regulation, the Capitals were actually even matched with the Islanders in face-off wins, despite Washington being one of the worst, and New York one of the best in that category. Defenseman Justin Schultz, who had a goal and assist in Sunday’s SO loss to the Sabres, had three shots on goal of his own, and was very visible through much of the match.
Washington did not have the majority of shot attempts in the third, but with 9:01 left, the Caps would receive a power play as Lars Eller was hit against the boards. Eller needed assistance off the ice and the penalty was assessed a five-minute major against Leo Komarov. For five minutes, Washington would play with the man-advantage. But despite the extended opportunity, Washington would not convert, and the score would remain tied, 2-2.
With 3:30 left in the third period, Nick Leddy and Garnet Hathaway would become involved in front of Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Nicklas Backstrom took a trip down the Caps tunnel for a 2nd time, status undetermined. If Washington nor the Isles were to score in the remaining 1:40, extra hockey would be required, yet again, the Capitals would avoid a regulation loss.
But with just 26.4 seconds remaining, Justin Schultz scored his 2nd in as many games to make it 3-2, Washington.
If three years ago, you had told me that Justin Schultz and Daniel Sprong would tally a combined 2 goals and 3 points for the Washington Capitals, I would have had you admitted for psychosis. The tiebreaker and game-winner would be Schultz’s 10th career game-winning goal.
The Islanders would vacate their net for the extra attacker in a last-ditch effort to try and tie the game. Vanecek was forced to make a point-blank save to keep his Caps in the lead, and would successfully do so to earn his 3rd win in 5 starts. Vitek made 32 saves on 34 shots to end his night with an impressive .941 save percentage. He will likely get the start for the Capitals again on Thursday. Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov allowed more than one goal against for the first time this season (after tallying back-to-back shutouts to start the season), and gave up three goal on 37 shots for a .919 save percentage. Although it is almost guaranteed that Varly will start once again, it is possible that Trotz, who expressed deep discontent with his teams loss, will go with Ilya Sorokin in between the pipes.
Both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson are game-time decisions for the Capitals. Lars Eller will not dress and is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Head coach Peter Laviolette would not let on as to whether or not Eller is going through concussion protocol.
Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov, and Samsonov, who have been missing from the Capitals lineup for the last four games due to COVID-protocol related violations, are eligible to return as soon as Saturday’s match against the Bruins. However, it is to be determined how much longer they will remain on the ‘unfit-to-play’ list.
Below you will see the expected lines and possible defensemen pairings ahead of tonight’s match (per Tarik el-Bashir of the Athletic)
NBCSWA and MSG +2 will be covering Capitals vs Islanders, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 7:00pm.
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