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Caps Scorch Isles, 6-2

November 5, 2013

In their first head-to-head meeting as divisional foes in more than 15 years, the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders each brought modest two-game winning streaks into Tuesday’s game at Verizon Center. When it was all said and done, the Caps ran their streak to three by scorching the Isles, 6-2.


“It’s big," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby of the win. "I think it is more the way we are playing right now. The three wins, I think we played a very good game. Even tonight, [the Islanders] are one of the best skilled teams in the league offensively, and we kept just grinding them down in their end and forcing them to take penalties and we stuck to our game plan all night. It paid off for us.”


The Caps came out strong in the first for a change. Washington had jump from the opening puck drop and put together its best first-period performance of the season, despite going to the room down 1-0 at the first intermission.


Mikhail Grabovski was whistled for an inadvertent hi-sticking call in the offensive zone at 3:58 of the first. The Caps killed the first half of that minor without issue, but were unable to get a much needed clear in the latter stages of the back half of the kill. Holtby made a few stops, but a couple of crisp passes just prior to the power play’s expiration helped isolate Islanders’ center John Tavares in the slot, and he punched it home just as time expired on the Grabovski minor – an even-strength goal, officially – to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.


Although the two teams each teed up 24 shot attempts in the first frame, the Caps owned a 19-12 advantage in even-strength shots attempted in the game’s first 20 minutes.


The Islanders came out with some get-up-and-go in the second, and they owned a territorial advantage for the first three minutes. That’s when Caps defenseman John Carlson executed a swipe and snipe play at the New York line. From his position at the right point, Carlson read and picked off a soft Thomas Hickey breakout pass. Carlson cruised in to the top of the right circle and rifled a precision wrist shot that beat Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov high to the far (blocker) side to even the game at 1-1.


Seventy-five seconds later, the Caps went on top for the first time. Three seconds after New York’s Cal Clutterbuck was seated for tripping, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom won the offensive zone draw back to Alex Ovechkin at the left point. Ovechkin let loose of a wrister that eluded Nabokov for a 2-1 Washington lead.


The Isles needed all of 17 seconds to knot the score again. With Tavares barreling down the middle, Kyle Okposo’s shot from the right circle off the rush went high over Holtby’s right shoulder to make it 2-2.


Washington’s Martin Erat broke away and drew a slashing minor on Isles defenseman Matt Carkner at 6:15 of the second. The Caps cashed in, scoring an odd pinballing power-play goal off the rush with Marcus Johansson finishing on a deflection at the goalmouth.


A mere 70 seconds after Johansson’s goal, the Caps pushed the lead to 4-2. Steve Oleksy made a sharp pass to Tom Wilson, who had cruised past the blueline on his off wing. Wilson went to the net, but Nabokov sprawled to stop him. Wilson went sprawling, too, but had the wherewithal to make an amazing pass from his backside, threading it right to a looming Alexander Urbom at the left point. Urbom let go of a blast that went past Nabokov to give the Caps’ their fourth goal in a span of just 5:04 and a two-goal advantage.


With Thomas Vanek in the box for interference late in the period, Washington’s power play went to work again. Johansson dished to Ovechkin and the latter pounded home a one-timer from his office near the left dot to make it a 5-2 game at 17:18 of the second.


It marked the second time in three games that Washington erupted for five goals in the second period of a game.


Philadelphia has five second-period goals as well. For the season.


The Isles kept coming at the Caps in the third, vying hard for a goal that would bring them within a pair and perhaps shift the momentum. New York had three power play chances to get that goal in the third, but Washington’s crack penalty killing corps stiffened its collective back and would not yield.


All that was left was for the Caps to top the cake with a bit of icing. They did so on the power play, with just 4:01 remaining in the game.


Hickey went to the hoosegow for holding at 15:25, and shortly thereafter Grabovski and Ovechkin combined to set up Wilson for a redirect from the slot to account for the 6-2 final.

"A lot of good things obviously happened," says Oates. "First period, they were up 1-0 but we still played a really good period, probably our best first period of the year. Yeah, they got a goal, but we did a lot of good things in that period."


“I thought we played pretty good up until all of a sudden, bang-bang on that power play," notes Islanders' coach Jack Capuano, "and we never recovered from that. Four power plays goals, that’s pretty good. That’s obviously attention to detail and something that we’ve got to get better at.”


Special Delivery – Washington went 4-for-6 with the extra man in Tuesday’s game and is now 17-for-61 (27.9%) on the season on the power play. That’s tops in the NHL.


The game marked the first time the Caps have netted four power play goals in a game since Dec. 9, 2011 against Toronto at Verizon Center, a 4-2 Washington win.


“Teams know what they’re going to do," says Capuano of the Caps' power play, "but they do a good job executing, and we broke down on some details tonight. They’ve got weapons up top in [Mike Green] and {Ovechkin] and on that weak side. It’s not like we don’t know what they’re doing, but you have to execute and we didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”


The Capitals killed off all five Islanders’ power plays on the night, leaving the Isles without a power play goal in five straight games now (0-for-18). Washington’s penalty-killing outfit is now 54-for-59 (91.7%) on the season. That’s also tops in the NHL.


Washington has killed off 39 of 40 shorthanded situations (97.5%) in its last 10 games.


Fifteen games into the 2013-14 season, the Capitals occupy a rare catbird’s seat for them: first place in the NHL in both power play prowess and penalty killing.


Festival Of Firsts – Wilson’s assist on Urbom’s goal was the teenaged rookie’s first NHL point. The goal was Urbom’s first as a member of the Capitals and the third of his NHL career.


Johansson’s goal was his first of the season. Brouwer’s assist on Johansson’s goal was his first helper of the season.


Wilson’s goal was obviously the first of his NHL career, and it came off a lovely primary feed from Ovechkin. Ovechkin was also the master of the primary feed on Wilson’s ceremonial shaving cream pie, administered early during the rookie’s postgame media scrum in the Washington locker room.


He’s had a lot of chances, and [rookies] don’t get that many minutes," says Oates of putting Wilson on the power play late in the game. "Because of the score, I gave him a chance to go out there and I didn’t expect it to go that way but great for him. He made a great play on [Urbom’s] goal. He’s done a lot of good things for us, and I’m obviously very happy for him to get that first one.”


Stepping Up In The Second – Washington now has 26 second-period goals on the season, accounting for more than half of its total of 47. The Caps lead the NHL in second-period goals and have outscored their opponents by a combined 26-13 in the second frame this season.


Back In The Saddle Again – After a two-game absence because of an upper body injury, Ovechkin returned to the Caps’ lineup for Tuesday’s game. He showed no signs of rust, notching three points (two goals, one assist; all on the power play) and launching seven shots in the direction of the net, four of them on goal.


Ten of Ovechkin’s career games played have now come immediately following an absence for injury or suspension, and the Caps’ captain has delivered eight goals and 10 points in those first 10 games back in the lineup.


He now has 12 goals in 13 games this season, and has totaled 35 goals and 54 points in his last 36 regular season games played, dating back to last season.


Helping Hands – With three assists on Tuesday, Backstrom has 14 in 15 games on the season, tied for third in the league. Backstrom’s 19 points are tops among all Capitals and fourth in the NHL.


Backstrom has 35 assists and 45 points in his last 36 regular season games, dating back to last season.


Tuesday marked the 23rd time in his career that Backstrom has had three or more assists in a game and the seventh time he has had three assists in a single period.


Offensive Bonanza – Tuesday’s game marked the eighth time in 15 games this season that Washington has scored four or more goals in a game. The Caps are 7-1 in those eight games, with the lone loss being a 6-4 opening night setback to the Blackhawks in Chicago on Oct. 1.


Washington has averaged 3.13 goals per game this season, tied with Pittsburgh and Toronto for eighth in the NHL this season.


O From The D – For the first time since the final game of the 2012-13 regular season (April 27 vs. Boston), the Caps got two or more goals from a defenseman on Tuesday. Mike Green scored a pair of goals in that season-ending 3-2 overtime win over the Bruins.


The last time the Caps had two different defensemen score in the same game was on April 13 when both Green and Jack Hillen found the range in a 6-5 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Verizon Center.


Shooting Gallery – Tuesday’s tilt marked the 10th straight game in which Washington has surrendered 30 or more shots on goal. The Caps have permitted 30 or more shots against in 13 of their 15 games this season.


The Caps allowed 30 or more shots in a dozen straight games at one point last season, going 6-6 in those games. Washington is 7-3 in its current streak of 10 games with 30 or more shots surrendered.


Better In The Back – Washington limited its foe to two or fewer goals for the third straight game and the seventh time in its last 10 contests.


Holtby is now 6-2 in his last eight starts, with a shutout, a 2.06 GAA and a .943 save pct. during that stretch.

"We've got to take care of our end," says Oates. "We're going to score lots of goals. That's not going to be our problem. We've got to focus on our end and just allow the game to happen."


Solved For A Night – Nabokov entered the game with a 12-1-3 career record to go along with a pair of shutouts, a 2.09 GAA and a .926 save pct. in 16 career starts against Washington.


Until tonight, the Caps had never managed to score more than four goals against Nabokov in a single game. Tonight, they needed just 37:18 to dent the 38-year-old Russian netminder five times and they ended up lighting the lamp behind him six times on 39 shots.


Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ – Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Capitals had won four of their previous eight games against the Islanders. But they needed extra time to do so on all four occasions, taking two in overtime and two in the shootout.


Tonight’s win was Washington’s first over the Islanders in regulation since a 3-2 win over the Isles in Uniondale on Feb. 26, 2011. Tuesday’s triumph over the Islanders was the Capitals’ first in regulation at Verizon Center since a 2-1 win on Oct. 13, 2010.


Right Side Of A Good Thing – The Capitals have now won three straight, six of their last eight, and seven of their last 10 games. They’ve moved a game above the .500 mark (8-7) for the first time this season and have also slipped into second place in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division, six points in arrears of front-running Pittsburgh.


Making Up For Lost Time – The Capitals were the last Eastern Conference team that Tavares scored against for the first time. Washington held the talented pivot without a goal in the first seven games he played against the Capitals in his NHL career.


Since then, Tavares has been making up for lost time.


Including his goal against the Caps on Tuesday night, Tavares now has eight goals in his last eight games against Washington.


This One Goes To Eleven – Tuesday marked the 11th straight game in which an Islanders’ defenseman recorded a point in a New York game.


By The Numbers -- Karl Alzner led the Capitals with 23:05 in ice time ... All 18 Washington skaters recorded at least one shot on net ... Alzner paced the Caps with four blocked shots ... Ten different Capitals took at least one face-off ... Half of Washington's 18 skaters notched a point ... Vanek led the Isles with seven shots on net.