Sitting at tenth and eleventh place in the Eastern Conference, respectively, the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders were both facing a familiar and similar narrative. Both teams are on the cusp of playoff contention and trying to scrape together two points whenever they could get them.
Tonight was a good night as ever if the Capitals wanted to keep any hope of surviving for the postseason alive. Unfortunately, the Islanders had other plans, knocking the Caps off 3-2 before a sold-out Verizon Center.
It didn’t start off well. The Islanders struck fast and early, a wide-open Michael Grabner took advantage of sloppy defensive coverage and scored the game’s first goal five minutes in. He was assisted by former Capital and Hershey Bear Keith Aucoin.
Less than two minutes later, the Islanders added to their lead with a Josh Bailey goal to go up on the Capitals 2-0.
Allowing two goals in less than ten minutes of play is indicative of defensive zone breakdowns and was perhaps a sign of a team that has played its last three games on the road and is just simply tired.
Brooks Laich, who made his debut on home ice after returning to the lineup from a groin injury a week ago, commented postgame that starts are crucial and the team didn’t come out hard enough at the beginning of the game.
Though they controlled play for the final five minutes of the first period, the Capitals were unable to score and ended the period down by two goals.
Riding on the momentum gained late in the first, the second period looked a little brighter for the Capitals, and they kept themselves afloat with goals from Mike Ribiero and John Carlson, tying the game.
Ribiero’s goal came off a pass by Troy Brouwer, who kept the puck in the Islanders zone before tapping it to Ribiero, who deftly worked his way between defenders before scoring the Capitals’ first goal of the night.
John Carlson sent in a slapshot on the point that pierced Evgeni Nabokov, finally, to tie the game for the Capitals.
Entering the third period deadlocked at 2-2, it became a contest of who would be the first to make a mistake. Unfortunately, the Capitals were it.
Mike Green’s ill-time turnover late in the third period led to John Tavares’ game-winning goal. Islanders win, 3-2 in regulation.
Postgame, Laich would take some of the blame for the turnover, saying it was his bad decision along the boards that led to Green’s play.
Coach Adam Oates agreed, saying the mistakes were due to mental errors and fatigue, and citing Laich’s increased minutes as a likely cause.
Green led the team in ice time with 25:14 and Laich played 19:41.
The Capitals have a few days off to practice and regroup before heading to Buffalo and Philadelphia this weekend, an important stretch of road games that can keep breathe some life into the potential corpse their season and playoff hopes could become.