The Capitals looked to be in control with a two-goal lead in the second period, but two critical mistakes gave the New York Islanders life and the 4-2 win in Game 1 on Wednesday. Braden Holtby missed what looked to be a makeable save late in the second period to spark the comeback. The Islanders would then score a shorthanded tally in the third for the game-winner.
Here's why the Caps lost.
Missed opportunities in the 1st period
If you didn't know coming into the series which team was coming off a playoff round and which one played in the round-robin and had to guess which was which, you probably would have guessed wrong. New York had no composure at all and took a number of bad penalties. Washington had three power plays in the first period, were leading in shot attempts 21-8 and in shots on goal 7-2. Rarely will you see a period in the playoffs so one-sided...and the Caps did not cash in. Through 20 minutes, the score was 0-0. The Caps needed to take advantage when they were dominating and they could not.
Nicklas Backstrom played only 7:21 on the game and did not return for the second period. He was the recipient of a questionable hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in the first period. Backstrom clearly was not expecting the hit and was seen talking to the trainer on the bench afterward. Though not confirmed, it is believed that hit was the reason for Backstrom's absence.
The Caps were already without Lars Eller for Game 1 so the loss of Backstrom was a big hit to the team's center depth.
Washington led 2-0 in the second period and looked to be in complete control until Jordan Eberle changed the game with a late second period goal that...well, Braden Holtby just missed.
Mathew Barzal came charging into the offensive zone and dropped the puck off to Jordan Eberle. Eberle cut from left to right and fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle that somehow eluded Holtby's glove.
Holtby was not screened on the play and the puck did not appear to deflect off the outstretched stick of John Carlson. Holtby was set and began drifting to his right. He held up the glove and just missed it.
It is always easy to say a goalie "should have had that one," but...he should have had that one. That goal was the turning point of the game and led to four-unanswered goals for New York.
Early 3rd period momentum
Why do late goals hurt more? Because they are deflating to the team that gives them up and give the scoring team a shot of momentum. That was evident at the start of the third period.
Eberle's goal game with 10:3 remaining in the second. Lee then scored 51 seconds into the third period to tie the game.
The Caps' power play against New York's shorthanded forecheck
In the second period, the Caps were almost burned for a shorthanded goal when Leo Komarov provided the shorthanded forecheck and stole an errant pass behind the Caps' goal line. He fed a wide-open J.G. Pageau in front of the net, who had Braden Holtby beat with the deke, but T.J. Oshie came sliding into the crease to keep the puck out, sweeping it away with his hand.
Washington did not learn its lesson and ended up giving up a short-handed game-winning goal.
Brock Nelson cleared the puck and Holtby corralled it, but just casually fed it to Alex Ovechkin who seemingly was unaware that Nelson was right behind him. Nelson pounced on the puck as Holtby tried to feed it to Ovechkin and centered it to Josh Bailey who scored.
Anthony Beauvillier would add the insurance tally about five minutes later.
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