October 24 vs. New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Washington Capitals (5-2-2)
New York Islanders (1-4-3)
Washington concludes a two-game road trip with a Saturday night visit to Long Island. The Capitals have picked up at least a point in four straight games, going 4-0-1 during that stretch.
The Caps got out of Atlanta with a sloppy 5-4 win in the trip opener on Thursday night. Washington vaulted to a 5-2 lead midway through the second period when it dented the Thrashers for three goals in 88 seconds, but the Caps allowed a shorthanded goal and a power play goal in the third. Atlanta rallied and was knocking on the door for more in the game’s final seconds.
Despite having a goal disallowed, giving up two power play goals and a shorthanded goal, squandering a 5-on-3 power play of 1:08 in duration, and getting no offensive contributions from their top six forwards, the Caps got out of Atlanta with two points.
“It doesn’t happen too often,” says Boudreau, of Washington’s good fortune on Thursday night against the Thrashers. “That’s why we’ve got to be very careful on our mindset thinking that we’re doing well coming into [the Islanders game] when you can arguably say that the Nashville game [last Saturday], Alex was at the top of his game that night and we didn’t play a very good game against a road weary team.”
Ovechkin scored both of Washington’s goals against Nashville and then potted the game-winner in overtime.
“[Thursday] night’s game [in Atlanta], it was the first home game [for the Thrashers] after a long road stretch, and the goalie didn’t play all that well even though our goalie let in a couple of softies as well, I thought. To come way with a win, sometimes you think you’re better than you’re lucky. And we’ve got to get back to the grind and work and play better.”
The Capitals held an optional practice on Long Island shortly after their arrival here on Friday. Ten players exercised that option.
Washington was able to get away without contributions from the likes of Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom because four other players – Eric Fehr, Alexandre Giroux, Jeff Schultz and Chris Clark – all scored their first goals of the season. Matt Bradley chipped in with his third, giving him five goals and 11 points in his last 19 games, including the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Schultz had a career night, making a great pass to spring Fehr on a breakaway and also assisting on Bradley’s goal for the first three-point night of his NHL career. Fehr’s goal – the first of the game – seemed to energize both Schultz and Fehr. Both went on to have solid games the rest of the way.
“We talked a lot about the way Schultzie made that pass,” says Boudreau, “and it was a great pass. And I challenged Eric Fehr pretty well a couple of days before so I was really happy to see him come out and play a strong game.”
And Boudreau believes that Schultz should have been credited with three assists instead of a goal and two helpers.
“He got a goal,” begins Boudreau, “but we’re going to end up getting it changed because [Mike] Knuble tipped that at the blueline. And it might have looked like just a little, faint tip but it made all the difference in the world for the hopping of the puck.
“And [Keith] Aucoin should have gotten an assist on Clark’s goal, winning the draw straight back that we should have gotten him credit for. They got two assists on every goal; we got one assist on every goal [but one].
“This is the NHL where statistics, people think they don’t mean anything. But it’s what people base their salaries on when they go to arbitrations. I think we’ve got to take a look and get some continuity.
“I think last year there was a game we played in San Jose where each team had 45 hits. We had five hits [Thursday] night, and none in the second period. We scored three goals in the second period. I’ve got to believe that there’s got to be a hit involved in one of those.”
Washington has the third most points (12) among all Eastern Conference teams while the Islanders have the third fewest (5). Washington has gained at least a point in seven of its first nine games this season; the Isles have collected a point in four of their first eight contests.
Last season, the Isles finished in the NHL’s basement. They won the draft lottery and earned the top overall choice in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, using it to take forward John Tavares.
Tavares has gotten out to a strong start as a 19-year-old rookie in the league. With three goals and seven points in eight games, he stands second on the club in scoring. Tavares also scored the decisive shootout goal in the Islanders’ lone win to date this season.
The Islanders have gained points in four of their first eight games (including each of their first three games of 2009-10), but their only victory was a shootout triumph over Carolina on Wednesday. New York is 0-4-1 in its last four games, and it has been outscored 20-9 in those five contests.
Most recently the Isles suffered a 5-1 setback at the hands of the Canadiens in Montreal on Thursday, getting outshot 43-22 in the process. That loss came one night after the Fishermen recorded their first win of 2009-10. New York took Friday off.
New York’s chief off-season acquisitions were veteran goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. The two new netminders have alternated starts in New York’s first eight games, and if the pattern holds Roloson will get the call against the Caps on Saturday.
Roloson is 5-2-1 with two shutouts, a 1.74 GAA and a .925 save pct. lifetime against the Capitals. The 40-year-old goalie is 2-1-2 with a 2.48 GAA and a .924 save pct. in five career starts at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Notes: Although Schultz's first goal of the season has not yet been changed to a Knuble goal, and although Aucoin has not yet been credited with an assist on Clark's goal, Caps center Brendan Morrison did receive after-the-fact credit for an additional assist on Fehr's goal.