Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Playing in his first game in eight days, Alex Ovechkin made his presence felt with a thundering game-winning slap shot with 2:40remaining in regulation. Ovechkin planted himself in the high slot and one-timed a Nicklas Backstrom feed that froze Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak for his 29th goal of the season. The Capitals carried a 2-1 lead into the third period on goals by T.J. Oshie and Andre Burakovsky, but the Islanders kept buzzing in the third period and tied the score on a goal by Josh Bailey with 5:38 gone. Bailey fought Dmitry Orlov for space in front of Braden Holtby and snapped Marek Zidlicky’s centering pass into the half-open net for his eighth goal of the season.
What it means: The Capitals are the only team in the NHL that has not lost back-to-back games in regulation this season. Their win opened up an 18-point lead on the Islanders. Braden Holtby was excellent in stopping 24 shots and benefitted by blocks from Karl Alzner and T.J. Oshie on a game-saving penalty kill.
Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky picked up his ninth goal of the season and gave the Caps a 2-1 lead with 1:18 remaining in the second period. Dmitry Orlov started the play by breaking up a rush by Brock Nelson and pushing the puck up the ice. Orlov worked a give-and-go with Jason Chimera, whose bad-angle shot squeaked through Jaro Halak, allowing Burakovsky to score on a one-handed backhand swipe at the puck. Burakovsky now has seven goals and six assists in his past 14 games and five goals in his past four games.
Nifty Nicky: Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period assist on T.J. Oshie’s 16th goal of the season was a thing of beauty. Backstrom entered the offensive zone with speed and hit the brakes on Nick Leddy, buying himself enough time to look off a covered Alex Ovechkin and drop a pass for a late-arriving Oshie, who blasted a one-timer past Jaroslav Halak. The assist was Backstrom’s 30th of the season and extended his points streak to five games. He has 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in his last 13 games.
Hickey on Wilson: Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey is not known for his physical play, but after getting helped off the ice after an illegal hit by Marcus Johansson on Jan. 7, he wanted someone on the Caps to pay and he chose Tom Wilson. Midway through the first period Hickey drove Wilson’s jaw into the boards, then crosschecked him in the face while Wilson was on the ice. Hickey was given an elbowing minor but the Caps failed to convert.
Courage: In tribute to the men and women of the armed forces, Caps goaltender Braden Holtby wore a goalie mask with the word “Courage” etched along his chin line, replacing the word “Capitals.” Holtby went back to his old red, white and blue Capitals mask in the second period.
Watchful eyes: Six NHL teams were represented in the press box for the game: the Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers.
What’s next: The Caps are scheduled to practice at 11:30 at Kettler on Friday, followed by afternoon games against the Devils on Saturday and Flyers on Sunday.
MORE CAPITALS: T.J. Oshie scores on beautiful pass by Nicklas Backstrom