The Capitals returned home in desperate need of two points and they earned them Thursday in a tense 4-3 win over the New York Islanders. The Islanders tied the game three times, but the Caps were still able to fend them off for the win. Here's how.
With the scored tied at 3 in the third period and all the momentum on the Islanders’ side, Eller delivered the game-winner with less than four minutes remaining in the game. To those watching, it came as no surprise that Eller would be the hero because he had been feeling it all game long. He finished with two goals and an assist in what may be his best performance in his time in Washington.
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Washington scored first
For the first time in eight games, the Capitals got the first goal of the game. In October, Washington had allowed the first goal an NHL-high nine times in 12 games. The Caps did not have to start the game chasing the other team and, in fact, never had to at all as they never trailed over the course of 60 minutes.
For the first time this season, the Caps were able to get a win despite getting zero points from Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie or Evgeny Kuznetsov. Taylor Chorney is now just the second defenseman on the team with a goal, Alex Chiasson got his first as a Cap and, led by Eller, the third line was something special.
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The third line
Eller wasn’t the only one who had a big night, it was the entire third line of Eller, Chandler Stephenson and Tom Wilson. The first goal was set up by a steal in the defensive zone by Eller that led to a 3-on-2 in the other direction. While they did not get a goal on the rush, Stephenson was able to find the trailing Chorney who had plenty of room to score after the Islanders skaters collapsed down low. Stephenson later found Eller with a nice pass to the slot which Eller finished off. Stephenson’s two assists were the first two assists of his NHL career. He now has three points in the four games he has played this season and is making a case for sticking around in Washington. The third line seems to have found some chemistry which is good news for a Capitals team that has been far too top-heavy offensively in the first month of the season.
Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.
Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.
Tarik’s three stars of the game:
1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers
Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.
Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.
2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals
After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.
It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.
3-Braden Holtby, Capitals
Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.
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The Caps looked like they had the win in hand as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers
Here's how the Caps lost.
An emotional start for Robert Luongo
Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus to actually play in the game. But he did. He started off very well, making several strong saves in the first period. Washington scored late in the opening period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
Another shaky start for Braden Holtby
This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.
Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson
With a 2-1 lead late in the third, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking, Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.
A late penalty to Lars Eller
With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but a point as well.