UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- When the Capitals look back on Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in their final game at Nassau Coliseum, they will remember the decibel level, the deafening chants of “Yes, Yes, Yes,” and the 78 glass-rattling hits.
But mostly, they will remember the missed opportunities they created while generating 39 shots on New York goaltender Jaroslav Halak.
Like the 2-on-1 by Nicklas Backstrom and Joel Ward that ended with Halak getting his catching arm on Ward’s shot early in the game. Or the clear look by Alex Ovechkin from the high slot that sailed wide right. Or the yawning net in front of Marcus Johnsson that he failed to hit.
The Capitals and Islanders were two very even teams on Saturday and because the Isles were one shot better -– Nikolay Kulemin’s game-winner midway through the final period proved to be the difference -- they will go at it one more time on Monday night at Verizon Center.
“You’ve got two very determined teams,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “Two teams that are well prepared. Two teams going nose to nose. It’s a heavyweight bout, that’s what it is.”
If that’s the case, the Caps couldn’t stay off the ropes enough in Round 6, letting the Isles hang around just long enough to win it.
“We knew they were going to come out hard and they did,” said Caps defenseman John Carlson, who scored a power-play goal in the closing seconds of the first period. “I thought we did a good job coming out of the first period 1-1. We had a bunch of chances to make it 2-1 and we didn’t. We didn’t finish that well.”
The Capitals outshot the Islanders 16-9 in the opening period but were outshot 17-10 in the second. The two teams exchanged chances in the final period, but Kulemin took advantage of a busted play to slip a forehander behind Braden Holtby for his first goal of the series.
“We had a couple looks, but they had too many looks,” Trotz said. “I thought we were too loose in a few areas around the net. When they had some quality chances Braden was good, and when we had quality chances Halak was good.”
In the end, Trotz said, the Islanders used the energy and desperation of their crowd to push the series to its limit.
“At the end of the day, the desperation level of the Islanders was just a little bit higher than ours,” Trotz said. “We’re in a winner-take-all situation.”
Carlson said there is nothing the Islanders can show them on Monday that they haven’t already seen.
“We know what we’re getting ourselves into,” he said. “We know they’re a team that forechecks hard. We know they skate and can move the puck and they’ve done that. We’ve got to do a better job slowing them down out of their zone and through the neutral zone. And we’ve got to bury our chances. I feel like we had a ton of them.”
And because they didn’t cash in, the Caps and Isles will roll the dice one more time for a chance to face the rested and supremely confident New York Rangers in Round 2.
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