Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Monday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: After the Caps surrendered a one-goal lead, rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov became their Game 7 hero when he weaved through three Islanders and roofed a shot over goaltender Jaroslav Halak with 7:18 remaining in regulation to provide the difference in the game. Joel Ward also scored for the Capitals, while Frans Nielsen scored the lone goal for the Islanders.
What it means: It was the Capitals’ first Game 7 victory on home ice since they beat the Penguins in 2009. The Capitals will face the President Trophy-winning New York Rangers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The best-of-seven is expected to begin on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Block of the night: With a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the third period Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik blocked a slap shot by Kyle Okposo with his right leg and had to be helped off the ice by defense partner John Carlson. Orpik returned to the ice two shifts later and helped kill off a penalty to Carlson about 2 minutes later.
How they scored: The Capitals dominated the Islanders through two periods, outshooting them 21-7, but they didn’t break through on the scoreboard until 1:25 remained in the second period.
That’s when Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak appeared to lose sight of a long point shot by Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik and could not control the rebound. Ward, who was parked in the crease, pitch-forked the puck under the prone Halak for his first goal of the 2015 playoffs.
Ward, who now has 12 goals and 30 points in 46 playoff games, reacted with two leaps into air before being congratulated by his teammates.
Outshot and outplayed through two periods, the Islanders tied the score with 3:13 gone in the third period when center Frans Nielsen took a pass from Thomas Hickey, fought through a stick check by Washington right winger Jason Chimera, and snapped a shot that somehow found its way through the legs of Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby.
Kuznetsov finished off the Islanders with his goal with 7:18 remaining. He snaked his way through a pair of Islanders and, once Halak committed, he ripped a shot into he top right corner of the net for his team-high third goal of the playoffs.
Caps vs. Rangers: The Caps and Rangers will face each other in the playoffs for the third time on four years. The Caps lost each of their last two series against them in seven games. The Rangers beat the Caps in three of their four regular season meetings, including a 4-2 win at Verizon Center on April 11 in the regular season finale for both teams. The Rangers disposed of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in five games.