April 5 vs. New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum
Time: 5:00 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
Washington Capitals (34-30-13)
New York Islanders (31-35-10)
Washington’s final four-game road swing of the 2013-14 season continues in Uniondale, N.Y. where the Caps will take on the New York Islanders in a Saturday matinee match, the team’s second game in as many nights.
The Caps started their road journey on Friday night in New Jersey, losing a 2-1 decision to the Devils that all but kills Washington’s swiftly fading playoff hopes. Friday’s setback leaves Washington in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps now trail eighth place Columbus by four points and have to climb over three teams and have only five games remaining in which to achieve that rather miraculous feat.
“It’s all about the points,” says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. “I’m disappointed that we couldn’t pull it off; at least one point. I think it’s important that we dig down and get those two points [Saturday]. We need them. We have to.”
Friday night’s loss to the Devils was the Capitals’ fifth in succession (0-3-2). Washington is now winless since returning from a triumphant (2-0-1) trip out west just under two weeks ago.
The Caps jumped out to a 1-0 lead midway through the first period of Friday’s contest on Alex Ovechkin’s 49th goal of the season and his first at even-strength since Feb. 27. New Jersey seized momentum in the game when the Caps were forced to kill about six straight minutes worth of penalties late in the first and early in the second. Washington shut down the New Jersey power play, but the Devils used that stretch of power play time to tilt the ice a bit on the Capitals.
New Jersey accounted for 16 straight shot attempts at one point, and the Devils drew even just past the midpoint of the game’s second period.
“The first six minutes or so we were in the box,” says Caps left wing Jason Chimera of the second period of Friday’s game. “I had one that was left over from the first and [Joel Ward] took one that’s unfortunate for four minutes.
“We did a good job of killing them off; didn’t really give them much. But we don’t get our good players out, we don’t get our best players on the ice and they get some momentum because of it. They were rolling. On the power plays, they keep on coming at you in waves and waves and you’re sitting back, hoping to get pucks out. You don’t really get a chance to go on offense. They got momentum that way. We did a good job of mostly keeping them to the outside, but when they have momentum one is going to sneak through eventually.”
Washington rebounded and generated some strong scoring chances of its own, but was unable to break the tie. Devils fourth-liner Ryan Carter scored the game-winner off the rush with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
“They’re a tough team to play against and anytime you’re 1-1 going into the third period, you have a chance against these guys,” says Chimera of the Devils. “A goal that usually doesn’t go in goes in, and it was just one of those nights.
“I thought we played pretty well. We came out pretty good and they had their moments; we had our moments. They got their moments in the second period because they had a couple of power plays in a row. Sometimes you play good and you lose; sometimes you play crappy and you lose. We played pretty good tonight and lost. We gave ourselves a chance to win at least.”
With five games remaining in the season, the Caps’ playoff hopes are now on life support. And Washington has a five-game losing streak to boot. Finding motivation may not be easy the rest of the way.
“We have no choice,” says Chimera. “We have to. We’re all pros here and guys make a lot of money to play this game. We have no choice but to get back up and go. With a little help, we’re still in it. We’ve still got some games left. If we run the table, we could somehow get in. It’s a big game obviously, and you want to have it. But if you keep playing like that you’re going to give yourselves a chance to win.”
Although they’ve been mathematically eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Islanders have won three games in a row. With an 8-3-2 mark in their last 13 games, the Islanders are in the midst of one of their best stretches of hockey this season.
New York started the season with a modest 2-0-1 run in its first three games, and that has turned out to be the high water mark for the Islanders in the 2013-14 campaign.
The Islanders’ recent surge has come despite the absence of a handful of key palyers because of injury.
Captain and leading scorer John Tavares is out for the season with a torn meniscus/MCL in his left knee. Forward Michael Grabner and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky are both out with concussions, blueliner Brian Strait has a broken hand and forward Kyle Okposo has a lower body injury.
Of that ailing quintet, only Okposo seems to have even a remote possibility of suiting up for Saturday’s game against the Capitals.
Washington has won two of the previous three meetings between the two clubs this season. The Caps won a 3-2 overtime decision here on the Island on Nov. 30, coming from behind on a Backstrom shorthanded goal to tie the game in the final minute of regulation and then winning on an Ovechkin marker in overtime.
The two clubs split the two games in the District, with Washington romping by a 6-2 count on Nov. 5 and the Islanders whitewashing the Capitals in their own barn by a 1-0 score on Feb. 4.