April 19, 2021

Washington Capitals Game 3 Recap: Isles shock with quick OT winner

Outplayed most of the game, the Washington Capitals forced overtime in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals matchup with the New York Islanders on a goal by Nick Backstrom in the latter stages of the third period. But Islanders captain John Tavares banged home a rebound just 15 seconds into overtime, lifting New York to a 2-1 win and 2-1 series lead before a raucous crowd at Nassau Coliseum.

The Isles won the draw in overtime and dumped the puck in on Braden Holtby. Holtby decided not to hold the puck, instead pushing it out to his right for John Carlson. Carlson flung the puck up along the wall, where Nick Leddy corralled it and sent it back into the slot. Nikolai Kulemin’s initial shot was stopped by Holtby, who flicked it toward the corner with his paddle.

But he didn’t get enough of it, and the puck went straight to Tavares. The Islanders’ captain calmly flipped it past Holtby’s short side on a sharp angle to give the Isles a one-game advantage in the series.

It ended a game that the home team dominated for the most part. As has been the case in every game of the series thus far, the Islanders got on the board first, the Capitals responded with some good play, but as with Game 1 ended up on the short end of the scoreboard.

New York broke through at 12:37 of the second period, when Kyle Okposo tipped in a shot from the point by Lubomir Visnosky. It stayed that way until about six minutes had run off the clock in the third.

Mike Green carried the puck along the left wing boards and behind the Islanders’ net. He eventually came back out the other side and left the puck for Backstrom at the half wall. Backstrom drifted to the high slot and whipped a shot through a maze of bodies, including Alex Ovechkin standing right in front of Jaroslav Halak (25 saves) to even the game and seemingly grab the momentum.

But the Caps responded by falling into a defensive lull, apparently happy to take the game to the extra session, where a decidedly unhappy result awaited.

Holtby, coming off an illness that kept him out of Game 2, was stellar in goal and had to be, as the Caps were widely outshot once again, with the Islanders generating 66 shot attempts (42 on goal) to the Caps’ 57 (just 25 on goal), including 11 shots on goal in the third period when the Caps played their best hockey.

So far in this series, the Capitals have shown their game only when facing a deficit. It’s a pattern that has achieved mixed results so far. Knowing the building would be rocking against them on Sunday, they came out flat once again and had the action taken to them, not responding until the third period when the odds seemed against them.

It’s a pattern that coach Barry Trotz should do whatever is possible in his coaching repertoire to avoid in Game 4, Tuesday at 7:30 again at the Nassau Coliseum. If the Caps come out of the gates playing like they did in the third period of Game 3 or the second and third of Game 2, the Islanders will have a hard time keeping up with them.

Thus far in this series, we’ve seen not nearly enough of it and the Caps find themselves behind the 8-ball.

CAPS NOTES:

  • Eric Fehr left the game in the second period after taking a hard, legal check from Cal Clutterbuck. With Fehr’s history of shoulder problems and his recent undisclosed upper body injury, it’s hard not to watch the replay and diagnose another shoulder injury. If the cant’ go in Game 4, it’ll be interested to see if Trotz goes with Michael Latta or tried to infuse some offense with Andre Burakovsky.
  • The Caps got just three shots on goal in the first period, indicative of their struggles to get going early in games in this series.
  • Washington was awarded three power plays and generated just three shots on goal.
  • Speaking to the closeness of the final score, both teams blocked 24 shots, the faceoffs were 30-29 in favor of the Caps, and the hits were 44-43 Isles.
  • Ovechkin, shadowed by Johnny Boychuk relentlessly in this series, had three shots on goal, another nine blocked and two misses. He was awarded three hits.
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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