April 20, 2021

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Islanders completely overwhelm Caps

The Washington Capitals had not faced the New York Islanders in a Stanley Cup playoff game since the end of the 1992-93 season, a 4-2 Islanders series win, which included Dale Hunter running the Islanders Pierre Turgeon into the boards, resulting in a 21-game suspension the next season.

And no recollection of playoff series with the Isles could be complete without the still-stinging memory of Pat Lafontaine’s Game 7, four-overtime game winner, the “Easter Epic” of April 18-19, 1987 in the longest Game 7 in NHL history.

With those thoughts in mind, then, this version of the Capitals took to the ice in Game 1 against the current Islanders, and it’s as if nothing changed. The Caps were thoroughly outskated, outplayed and outclassed, falling to the Isles 4-1, losing whatever home-ice advantage they might have had.

The Islanders struck first, just 6:06 into the contest, when Brock Nelson stunned Braden Holtby with a wrist shot from the top of the right wing circle after a neutral zone turnover by Troy Brouwer. Nelson made a nice shot, but Holtby never moved his feet and was beaten badly.

 The Caps were overwhelmingly outplayed the entirety of the first period, but sometimes it only takes one shot. As P.A. announcer Wes Johnson announced “one minute remaining in the period,” the Islanders turned it over in their own zone and Brooks Laich tapped it to Marcus Johansson alone in the slot, who whipped it past Jaroslav Halak to tie it up after one.

All things considered, the Caps were fortunate to get out of the frame tied.

It didn’t last long. At the start of the second period, after a lengthy delay for a broken pane of glass behind Holtby, Michael Latta lost a defensive zone draw and Ryan Strome collected the puck and, using the faceoff men as a screen, beat Holtby high shortside for a 2-1 Isles lead.

It became 3-1 at 9:24 of the period. A horrendous defensive shift ended up with Kyle Okposo drawing a pair of defenders, and the puck and landed at the feet of Josh Bailey on the far post, undefended. Holtby made the first save, but Bailey got two more whacks at it and it eventually trickled under Holtby and just over the goal line. After review, the goal stood.

 The Caps started to generate some good scoring chances in the latter part of the second period, but Jason Chimera was assessed a roughing penalty as time ran out of the frame, putting the Caps behind the eight-ball to start the third.

They killed that penalty after a nervous two minutes, and played with a  bit more energy in the final 18 minutes, but to the same effect. The play on the ice also affected the Verizon Center faithful, and in the last four minutes of the game, loud “Let’s Go Islanders” chants could be heard raining down to the playing surface from the upper deck.

Brock Nelson added an empty net goal with just over a minute to play as the Caps couldn’t get back to touch up an icing.

The Caps have little time to stew on this one, as they face the Islanders again Friday night at 7:00 in Game 2. A different Caps team than the one that played Wednesday night will have to show for that one, or this could turn out to be a very short series.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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