Caps Can’t KO DiPietro – Through the game’s first 20 minutes, Washington had the homestanding New York Islanders right where they wanted them. The Caps owned a 2-0 lead, Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro looked shaky to the point that the fans were chanting for back-up Al Montoya as the clock wound down in the first frame, and the offensively challenged Islanders were up to more than 100 minutes since they scored their last goal.
That’s when the Caps did something good teams shouldn’t do. They let the Islanders get up off the canvas and the Isles roared back to take a 5-3 decision.
“I think that’s where it changed,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “The first period I thought was just a continuation of [Friday] night. I thought we were really good, controlled the puck, made smart decisions and made it tough on them.
“In the second period, we wanted to get that third one. We thought if did that, we could really control the game. But we got away from our game plan a little bit. Turnovers, not getting the puck deep. They pushed back, started to outwork us, and that’s where it started to turn.”
Had Washington been able to administer the knockout punch in the form of the game’s third goal early in the second, they might have made the Islanders go away.
“I think in the second period we were too cute there,” says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. “We didn’t get the puck deep. I think we turned the puck over too much and you can’t do that against a team like this. They’re good on the rushes. You’ve got to get the puck deep and make sure you work them down low. That’s how you’ll be successful. But we didn’t do that tonight.”
Instead, the always plucky Isles scrapped their way to three unanswered goals and a 3-2 third-period lead. The Caps evened it up at 3-3, but New York’s defensive zone coverage at even-strength was better than Washington’s in the third and the Islanders finished up a 5-3 win over the Capitals.
“We’ve got to make sure we get better in the defensive zone,” declares Backstrom. “We allowed them too much room in the defensive zone, I think, and that’s why we lost this game.”
New York’s third and fourth goals came when Islanders were left alone at the top of the paint in front of Caps goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun made the original stop on both but first Matt Martin and then P.A. Parenteau were right there to tuck in easy rebounds.
Vokoun himself was not sharp, and he was the first to say so afterwards.
“The first two and the fourth one,” laments Vokoun. “You can’t win when your goalie gives up three bad goals. As much as we played hard and it’s tough obviously on back-to-back nights, I didn’t help the guys much. Those were bad goals. That’s tough, but that’s hockey.”
Laich thought the Caps’ coverage in front of their goaltender wasn’t what it should be.
“Three of the four goals are rebound goals,” notes Laich. “That’s our job to clear those pucks. [The Islanders] did a good job of getting after them, but Tomas’ job is to make the first save and then we have to beat our guys back to the net and clear pucks from around the net. When you don’t do it, you end up in trouble.”
DiPietro also left his fair share of rebounds in the third, but the New York defensemen were more effective at boxing the Caps out at the top of the paint and getting to rebounds and clearing them out of harm’s way.
The difference in this one came down to the Caps’ inability to grab a third goal before the Islanders scored their first, and New York playing better in its own end in the third than Washington did.
Going into the game, the Caps had been 11-0-3 against New York since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the Washington bench on Nov. 22, 2007. The Islanders’ previous regulation win over Washington was a 5-2 triumph at Verizon Center on Oct. 18, 2007.
Boudreau also believed the Caps could have authored a different finish if they’d been able to extend their early 2-0 lead to 3-0.
“We had them, I think,” says Boudreau. “If we had come out in the second [period] like we came out in the first … we knew that if we could have gotten that next goal, it probably would have been over. But we didn’t. And once we let them back into the game, we knew the third period was going to be a tough one.”
Fins For Fifteen – Washington now has 15 different players with at least five points and nine players with at least three goals.
Streak Stopper – Saturday’s loss ended Washington’s 14-game streak without a regulation loss to the Islanders. It also ended the Capitals’ streak of nine straight wins on United States ice to start the season and the Caps’ streak of seven straight victories over Eastern Conference opponents at the season’s start.
Eight vs. Isles – Alex Ovechkin scored his sixth goal of the season on Saturday, continuing his dominance against the Islanders. During his NHL career, Ovechkin now has 16 goals and 27 points in 23 games against New York. He has eight goals and 13 points in a dozen career games at Nassau Coliseum.
Water In The Desert – New York’s win ended a six-game skid (0-4-2). During the life of that streak, the Islanders scored a total of just three even-strength goals. Coming into the game, the Islanders had just 10 even-strength goals on the season. They scored five of them – although one was an empty-netter – on Saturday against Washington.
The Islanders came into Saturday’s game with just four third-period goals on the season. They added three to that total against Washington.
Long Time Coming – DiPietro ran his career record against Washington to 10-4-1. Saturday’s win over Washington was his first against the Caps since Feb. 20, 2008, a 3-2 shootout win at Verizon Center.
Blank Streak – Frans Nielsen’s first-period goal ended a streak of 111 minutes and 20 seconds without a goal for the Islanders.
Down On The Farm – The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays were on the short end of a 1-0 score on Friday night against the Florida Everblades, but the Stingrays bounced back for a 1-0 win over their own on Saturday night over the Toledo Walleye at North Charleston Coliseum.
Zach Tarkir scored the game’s lone goal at 11:33 of the second and Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves in the South Carolina cage to record his first shutout as a professional. With a 1.40 GAA on the season, Grubauer ranks second in the ECHL in that department.
At 7-3, the Stingrays are in first place in the ECHL’s South Division.
By The Numbers – Carlson led the Capitals with 24:20 in ice time and five shots on goal … John Erskine, Troy Brouwer, Mike Knuble and Matt Hendricks all had three hits to pace the Caps in that department … Roman Hamrlik led the Caps with three blocked shots … Laich was Washington’s top face-off man with eight wins in a dozen draws (67%) … Tavares and ex-Cap Milan Jurcina paced the Isles with four shots on goal each … Mark Eaton led the Isles with four blocked shots … Tavares was the Islanders’ top draw man with a 12-for-18 night (67%).