|Jason Chimera scores past Rick DiPietro in the first period.|
The first period got off to a fast start for both teams. The Capitals got a couple of good shots on Rick DiPietro within the fist two minutes that the American goaltender had to be sharp on, and the Islanders also got some good shots on Braden Holtby. But the Capitals struck first when Nicklas Backstrom weaved through the entire Islander defense and found Alex Ovechkin at the top of the circles. Ovechkin then dished a perfect pass to Jason Chimera, who tipped it past DP for a 1-0 Caps advantage almost 4 minutes into the frame. The Capitals continued to apply good zone pressure with a cycle that had the Isles reeling for a good six or seven more minutes before Alex Ovechkin took a penalty that gave New York the momentum. The Islanders pressured the Caps tirelessly on their power play and missed several wide open chances to equalize. Soon after their first one expired, New York got another and continued to have the Caps back on their heels as Braden Holtby stood tall for the visitors. The Caps were awarded a late power play, but could do nothing with it and the first frame ended with the visitors up 1-0. In the second, the Caps applied good pressure early. They were rewarded when Alex Ovechkin made one of his patented drives around the circles and was stopped by DiPietro; however, Nicklas Backstrom was there on the doorstep to bury the rebound for a 2-0 lead, his first goal in seven weeks. But the two goal lead was not to last, as Michael Grabner poked the puck free of John Erskine in the defensive zone and then beat the entire Caps defense down the wing, burying a backhander over Holtby's shoulder to cut the lead to 1. The Islanders were awarded a power play soon after and had the Caps pinned in their zone for extended periods, and Holtby had to be brilliant on several occasions. The Caps killed off another Islanders man advantage in the period but were unable to get anything going against a suddenly stiff Islander defense, and the period ended with the Caps ahead 2-1. In the third, the Capitals came out hard and generated multiple chances within the first minute, but Nicklas Backstrom took a bad penalty and the Islanders got another power play, though they were not able to convert. The Caps then began to gain momentum and attacked with purpose once more, getting pucks deep and forcing DiPietro to make good saves. The Caps earned themselves a second power play about 7 minutes into the frame, but were not able to convert; and then Mathieu Perrault took a tripping call 200 feet from his own net to give the Islanders yet another power play. The penalty kill was highlighted by a sparkling glove save by Holtby on John Tavares, and the Caps managed to hold off the Isles once more. Then the Caps seized the momentum once more, but were simply unable to finish on multiple occasions to put the game out of reach. The Islanders would not go away, and they almost tied it late, but Washington was somehow able to hold off the home side for a win they absolutely needed to have.
Nicklas Backstrom was excellent tonight. The game's first star had a goal, assist, was plus-two, and won 10 faceoffs in his best performance in awhile. He controlled the tempo of the game when he was on the ice, something that we have seen precious little of this season from the Swede. Hopefully this game can get him going for the long term, because the Caps really need him at top speed to be successful. In addition, he called P.A. Parenteau a f***ing pu**y after the game was over (click post title for video). Get it, Nicky.
Jason Chimera also had a great game as he remained on the top trio with Ovechkin and Backstrom. Your shot leader on the night (6) used his speed on the forecheck well and to create chances by going to the net all game and seems to have found his inner Mike Knuble to compliment the Caps' two best offensive players. Look for him to stick on that line for the foreseeable future, or at least until Alex Semin comes back.
Braden Holtby surprised me tonight and was very good. He had a couple of huge saves early to keep the Caps' 1-0 lead and late to keep the win in check. Hopefully he won't have to be around much longer so he can continue to mold his game at the AHL level, but for now, he seems to have earned another start and has given Bruce Boudreau peace of mind as BB will now likely see no reason to rush Neuvirth or Varlamov back from injuries.
The Caps will not practice tomorrow before flying to Toronto to prepare for Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada matchup with the Maple Leafs. That game is scheduled for 7 P.M.