The Washington Capitals concluded their sweep of a three-game mini-series against the New York Islanders with a 1-0 win on Tuesday, April 27. This game raised the Capitals to the top of the Eastern Division with a record of 39-13-4 and 68 points. Here’s a look back at what went down in each game and what is coming up next for Washington.
Game 1- 4/22
The Capitals picked up a 1-0 win in a shootout on Thursday, April 22. While there were no regulation goals in the game, it still was exciting to watch.
After a slow first period, Washington picked up their game in the second period. Defensively, they appeared stronger as they allowed no high danger chances for the Islanders in the last 40 minutes. While they did not score, the Capitals also looked strong on offense. They were able to establish offensive zone control and create opportunities against a team that puts defense as a priority.
The game was won by an excellent shootout goal by Evgeny Kuznetzov. Ilya Samsonov kept up his impressive goaltending performance in the shootout, stopping two out of the three shots he faced.
Game 2- 4/24
The Saturday night game was very different from the Thursday night game. Garnet Hathaway scored for the Capitals just two minutes and 33 seconds into the first period. TJ Oshie kept up the scoring with a goal just over eight minutes later.
Washington would end up winning the game 6-3. Daniel Sprong recorded the third and sixth goals, Nic Dowd scored the fourth goal and Evgeny Kuznetzov scored the Capitals’ fifth goal of the game. The three Islanders goals were scored during special teams play. Anthony Beauvillier and Jean Gabriel-Pageau both recorded powerplay goals. Adam Pelech netted a short-handed goal for the Islanders in the second period.
The Islanders looked off their game on Saturday and the Capitals were ready to take advantage of that. They played a physical game and put up an impressive offensive performance, even without Alexander Ovechkin. Defensively, Washington played well 5-on-5. The penalty kill had an unusually off night, allowing two goals on two powerplay opportunities. A shorthanded goal is never a good sign defensively and the Pelech tally is the latest of far too many shorthanded goals allowed by the Capitals this season.
Game 3- 4/27
The goal by Daniel Sprong just one minute and 29 seconds into the game was the first and only goal of the game. While the Capitals continued to generate offense and control the puck in the Islanders zone, Ilya Sorokin put up an impressive performance in the net. Washington put up 33 shots, of which Sorokin stopped 32.
The Capitals did not allow the Islanders much opportunity to score, giving up just 18 shots on goal. Defensive play five-on-five looked physical and effective. The penalty kill also seemed to regain its momentum as Washington killed off the Islanders three powerplay opportunities. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek stopped every shot he faced, including a few impressive saves.
This third game continued the strong showings by Washington in the previous two games. The Capitals did not allow a single even-strength goal in any of the three games. The defensive lapses that had appeared earlier in the month of April were not evident over the mini-series. Goaltending was also a strong point, a good sign as the Capitals will rely on both of their young goalies in the playoffs.
Offensively, Washington also performed well. They were able to maintain long periods of puck control in the Islanders zone. There were at times too many passes, especially when Washington entered the Islanders zone on a rush. The Capitals also found themselves unable to score on any of the six powerplays they received the three games, including a five-on-three opportunity on the 27th.
Physicality was another important component of the third and final game. The Capitals tallied 36 hits, were scrappy around each net and were not afraid to fight. Zdeno Chara faced off with Matt Martin in defense of Michael Raffl who received a painful hit from Martin. Physicality was used, for the most part, effectively and enhanced the Capitals game offensively and defensively.
Next up for the Capitals is a two-game set against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 29 and May 1. These games are all important in the race for first place in the Eastern Division. Washington will need to bring the offensive and defensive skill they showed against the Islanders, as well as the physicality from their most recent game.