Long Road Trip Starts in Long Island
Monday, 03.12.2012 / 6:46 PM
Mike Vogel - WashingtonCaps.com Senior WriterMarch 13 vs. New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum
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Washington Capitals (35-28-6)
New York Islanders (28-31-10)
Washington opens up a five-game road stretch on Tuesday night when it makes its second and final visit to Long Island this season. The Caps bring a three-game winning streak with them on the trip, and they’ll be seeking to push their road winning streak to three straight games for the first time this season.
When Washington last visited the Island on Nov. 5, the Caps were coming in for the second of their first set of games on back-to-back nights in the 2011-12 season.
Fresh from a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes in Carolina the night before, the Caps forged a 2-0 first-period lead and seemed poised to run their record to 10-2. But the Caps weren’t assertive enough about adding to that lead, and they let the Islanders hang around. New York skated off with a 5-3 win, and that setback started a 3-9-1 tailspin for the Caps.
That 2-0 lead at the first intermission of that Nov. 5 game has turned out to be the Capitals’ high-water mark this season. They have not been able to push their record to what passes for eight games over the break-even mark in the modern NHL, but they’ve managed to go seven games to the good eight different times.
The eighth of those times is now. Washington lifted its record to 35-28-6 with Sunday’s win over Toronto, and it has seven more victories than it has regulation losses for the eighth separate time this season. This marks the first time the Caps have been seven games to the good since a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center on Feb. 7.
With a win over the Isles on Tuesday, the Caps would finally go eight games to the good for the first time this season.
The Capitals have not won more than two straight road games since they put together a six-game road winning streak – matching the longest such streak in franchise history – last year at this time. Washington won six straight road contests from Feb. 20-March 15, 2011.
Prior to Monday’s well-deserved off day, the Capitals finished off a big weekend by taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 at Verizon Center in their last home game until March 24.
The Caps downed the Bruins in Boston by a 4-3 score on Saturday, to sweep the four points available to them on the weekend. That bountiful standings harvest pushed the Capitals four points ahead of Winnipeg and Buffalo in the chase for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Washington trails Florida by a single point for the top spot in the Southeast Division standings, and the Panthers hold a game in hand on the Capitals.
The Capitals are 6-2-1 in their last nine games, and they’ve earned at least a point in four straight games (3-0-1) for the first time since a four-game winning streak from Dec. 28-Jan. 3.
Washington has had fewer than four power play opportunities in each of its last half-dozen games, marking the third time this season they’ve endured a stretch of six straight games with three or fewer power play chances. The Caps went a season-high seven straight contests with three or fewer power play chances from Dec. 28-Jan. 11. The Caps made the most of their limited opportunities during that stretch, going 5-for-14 (35.7%) with the extra man on their way to a 5-2 record in those seven games.
The Capitals have had a total of just nine power play chances (1-for-9, 11.1%) in their last six games. Brooks Laich
scored the team’s lone power play goal during that span; it proved to be the game-winner on Saturday in Boston. Laich’s shorthanded goal was the game-winner on Sunday against the Leafs.
New York put together an 8-4 run right before the All-Star break to give an indication the Isles might be ready to climb up the Eastern Conference standings ladder a bit. But a listless 9-10-4 stretch has followed, ultimately undoing any hopes of a legitimate late season run. Instead, the Islanders are doomed to a fifth straight cellar-dwelling finish in the Atlantic Division.
With 13 games remaining, the Islanders need 14 points to ensure their best finish in the last five seasons, for whatever small consolation that might be worth.
The Islanders are a very ordinary 15-15-5 at home this season, but the team’s undoing has been its third-period performance. New York is just 15-1-7 when leading after two periods this season, and its .652 points percentage when leading after 40 minutes is the worst in the NHL.
When the Caps and Isles last met at Verizon Center on Feb. 28, the Isles had a 2-0 lead late in the third period. Washington’s Troy Brouwer
scored twice in the game’s final three and a half minutes and Alex Ovechkin
supplied the game-winner in overtime to hand New York another heartbreaking defeat.
The Isles are coming off another rugged weekend in which they were so close to claiming four points but were instead forced to settle for a single. New York nursed a 1-0 lead into the final minutes of Saturday’s game against the Devils on Long Island, but New Jersey tallied twice in a span of 14 seconds in the last two minutes of the third to stun the Islanders.
A night later at Madison Square Garden, the Isles took a 3-2 lead into the third but suffered a 4-3 loss to the rival Rangers when Marian Gaborik scored on a power play in the waning seconds of overtime.
The Islanders have struggled in their own division (6-11-3) and also against Northeast Division foes (5-9-2), but they’ve had a great deal of success against Southeast Division opponents (10-5-1) this season.