The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders faced off on Tuesday, March 16. The Islanders entered the game on the top of the Eastern Division and on an impressive nine-game winning streak. The Capitals were able to snap the streak, beating the Islanders 3-1. The teams now share the top spot in the division with 42 points each.
Alexander Ovechkin picked up his 718th career goal with his signature one-timer on a second-period Washington powerplay. With this goal, Ovechkin passes Phil Esposito and takes control of the sixth most goals of all time.
Ovechkin also picked up his 1,300th career point with a secondary assist to a goal scored by TJ Oshie earlier in the second period. He is the 35th player in NHL history to do so and is one of two active players to reach this mark, the other being Toronto forward Joe Thornton.
Washington forwards Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie also shined in Tuesday’s game. Oshie scored off an incredible play set up by Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetzov and Alexander Ovechkin. His gritty play was also important to limiting the Islanders’ chances throughout the game.
Backstrom tapped one into the Islanders net off an excellent pass from Jakub Vrana early into the third period. He also assisted the goal scored by Alexander Ovechkin. Backstrom continues to top the Washington points leaderboard with 33 points in 29 games and remains a critical piece of the Capitals’ offense.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov was a star in net for Washington on Tuesday. Samsonov stopped 21 out of the Islanders 22 shots and made key saves to keep the Capitals in the lead. The Islanders were shut out for the majority of the game until Oliver Wahlstrom netted one on a powerplay in the third period.
The referees were calling a tight game on Tuesday and did not leave room for infractions. Islanders forward Matthew Barzal was called for cross-checking in the second period. The resulting Washington powerplay gave Alexander Ovechkin the chance to score, putting the Capitals up by two over the Islanders. Head Coach Barry Trotz chose to bench Barzal for the first eight minutes of the third period in response to this penalty and the subpar shift that followed it.
Barzal leads the Islanders in points, but also leads the team in penalty minutes with 32. With Islanders captain Anders Lee on the long-term injured list Barzal needs to cut down on his time in the box and focus on generating offense.
While the Islanders played well, they were unable to find their winning streak momentum. The first period was scoreless and relatively even, but the Capitals shot ahead to a two-goal lead in the second. The lead was expanded on seconds into the third period, dashing New York’s hope at a comeback.
The Capitals also had some areas to improve in. The main place where Washington fell short was on faceoffs. The Capitals consistently find themselves losing faceoffs and this game was no exception. The Islanders won 61% of faceoffs while Washington won a meager 31%.
Washington’s faceoff percentage leader this season is Nic Dowd. While Dowd and his line of Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway are a physical and important line for Washington, they are not the first line. Dowd’s line is relied on to win key defensive faceoffs but lacks the goal-scoring magic of Nicklas Backstrom. If the Capitals want to improve their game, they should work on winning faceoffs consistently across their four lines.
The Washington Capitals will play again on Friday, March 19 at 7:00 pm EST against the New York Rangers. They will host the Rangers at Capital One Arena on Friday and again on Saturday, March 20.
The Islanders next play the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, March 18 at 7:00 pm EST. They will be playing the Flyers again on Saturday, March 20, and Monday, March 22.
The Islanders and Capitals will play again on April 1 at 7:00 pm EST. In the meantime, both teams must focus on winning to retain their top positions within the East Division.