Snatching Victory From The “Jaws” Of Defeat – For more than 59 minutes, the Washington Capitals were a frustrated hockey team. Unable to dent New York netminder Nathan Lawson – he of the 1-4-1 record, 4.56 GAA and .879 save pct. coming into Tuesday’s game – the Caps were less than a minute shy of suffering their 10th shutout setback of the season and their third in the last four home games.
In their previous 239 minutes and 55 seconds of play in front of their home fans, the Caps had scored a grand total of one goal before Brooks Laich put one past Lawson at 19:12 of the third period of Tuesday’s game to draw Washington even. Alex Ovechkin’s overtime winner gave the Caps their first home ice win since Feb. 6.
Saddled with a hard luck loss, Lawson deserved a better fate. Although his Islander teammates played well in front of him, they were only able to muster one goal of their own. Matt Moulson netted New York’s lone tally midway through the middle frame.
“He played a great game,” says Islanders coach Jack Capuano of Lawson’s performance. “We left a pretty good player along in front of the net for the game-tying [goal]. And just world-class skill on the last goal.”
Everyone would likely agree with that statement.
Rollicking down the right side of the ice, Ovechkin knifed his way around Islanders forward Frans Nielsen. The Caps right wing cut to the middle of the ice drew the disc to his backhand, then roofed the puck past Lawson to the far side.
Michal Neuvirth was stellar in the Washington nets, earning his 20th win of the season to tie Bob Mason’s single-season franchise standard for rookie goaltenders, set in 1986-87.
Each of the four games played between the Capitals and Islanders this season was decided by a single goal, with Washington coming out on top all four times. The Caps needed overtime to win each of their two home games against the Islanders this season.
New York took a lead into the third period of each of the last two games against Washington, only to lose both. The Capitals are now 6-17-4 in games in which they trail after 40 minutes this season. Two of those six wins have come in the Caps’ last two games, both at the Islanders’ expense.
Sturm had a breakaway on his second shift of the game. He tried to go five-hole on Lawson, and the puck did trickle through the New York goaltender but it skittered just wide. Sturm finished with 12:46 in ice time, two shots on goal and was 2-for-8 (25%) in face-offs. Sturm took one face-off in his 17 games with Los Angeles this season.
Arnott also had some scoring chances, but most importantly he set up Laich’s game-tying tally with a sublime feed from behind the net. The assist was Arnott’s first point in nine games. He finished with three shots on goal, a hit, and was 4-for-14 (29%) on face-offs.
Wideman may have had the best debut of the three. He skated 26:44, which was 5:23 more than any of his teammates. He had three shots on net, laid four hits, blocked two shots and was plus-2.
“[Arnott] is known for scoring goals as a center rather than a passer,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “But I thought he made two or three really, really good plays passing the puck. I thought Dennis Wideman played with a lot of poise. He got shots through from which our defense hasn’t been able to get shots through. [Sturm] was nervous. Anyone who plays with Nicky [Backstrom] and Alex [Ovechkin] tends to overplay.”
Grand Guys – Arnott is the first Capital with 1,000 or more NHL games to his credit since Sergei Fedorov in 2008-09. Along with Fedorov and Andrew Cassels (2005-06), Arnott is the third member of the 1,000-game club to lace up the blades for the Capitals since the lockout.
Suing For Non-Support – Tonight’s game marked the first time in three games that Washington scored a goal in support of Neuvirth in a home game. He had been on the short end of shutout losses in each of his last two Verizon Center starts and was less than a minute from meeting that fate again tonight.
“I’m just focusing on my game and trying to stop every shot and hoping that the guys are going to get one or two and that’s what we did tonight,” says Neuvirth. “It’s a huge win for us. It’s good to win for our fans.”
Clutch Cargo – Ovechkin leads the NHL with nine game-winning goals. Nine of his 25 goals have been game-winners.
Ovechkin added to his franchise record by scoring his ninth career overtime game-winner tonight. Three of those nine have come at the Islanders’ expense.
The 300 Club – Ovechkin’s assist on Laich’s game-tying goal was his 40th of the season and the 300th of his NHL career. This is the sixth time in as many NHL seasons that Ovechkin has reached the 40-assist plateau. He has had between 46 and 59 assists in each of his previous five NHL campaigns.
Slow Out Of The Gates – Washington has now gone five straight games without scoring a first-period goal for the third time this season. The Capitals’ total of 38 first-period goals this season is the fewest of any team in the league.
Last season, the Capitals led the NHL with 92 first-period goals.
Net Roulette – Lawson became the fourth different goaltender to start against the Capitals in as many games this season. He followed in the footsteps of Dwayne Roloson, Rick DiPietro and Al Montoya.
New York has employed six different goaltenders this season and claimed a seventh (Evgeni Nabokov) off waivers only to have him refuse to report to the Islanders.
Powerless – The Islanders went 0-for-17 against Washington on the power play in the four meetings between the two clubs this season.
Eight Men In – Isles forward Justin DiBenedetto became the eighth Islanders player to make his NHL debut this season.
By The Numbers – Tonight’s overtime win ended a streak of eight straight setbacks in overtime or the shootout for Washington … Karl Alzner led the Caps with seven blocked shots on the night. He accounted for three of the team’s four first-period blocks … Alzner, Jeff Schultz and Matt Bradley were the only three Caps not to record a shot on goal … The Caps were charged with a dozen giveaways to New York’s five … Boyd Gordon won 11-of-17 face-offs (65%) … The Caps outhit the Islanders, 26-12. Wideman and John Erskine led the way with four each.
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH