Brock Nelson scored the lone goal in a goalie duel as the Capitals fell to the New York Islanders 1-0 on Tuesday. After an 8-4 scoring bonanza last week, both teams played a stingy defensive game and neither goalie blinked until the third period.
The loss pulls the Islanders even with the Caps for first place in the East Division. Both teams now hold a four-point lead over the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins.
Through five games between the Caps and Islanders, the home team has won all five. Of the three games remaining between Washington and New York, two of those three will be played on Long Island.
Here is how Tuesday's loss happened.
This game was a goalie duel so of course the winning goalie makes the list. Varlamov stood tall in net with 29 saves to keep the Caps off the scoreboard.
The shutout is Varlamov's fourth of the season.
Not enough offense
Defense was clearly on the top of Washington's mind after giving up eight goals to the Islanders the last time these two teams met. That's not a bad thing and the Caps put together a strong defensive performance, but you do still have to get some offense to win and that's where Washington came up short.
Varlamov had a strong game in net, but the Caps did not test him enough. While they did manage 29 shots on goal, Washington only had 10 high-danger chances, per Natural Stat Trick. They just did not manage to get enough offense or challenge Varlamov enough.
A failed clear
Nelson finally snapped the scoreless draw with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
Zdeno Chara had the puck behind the net after an offensive flurry from the Islanders. Nelson came to challenge him and Chara tried to wheel the puck around the boards and out of the defensive zone. Instead, it was picked up by Ryan Pulock at the blue line who sent the puck back on net with a wrister. The puck hit Josh Bailey in front and Nelson picked up the loose puck, took a step to open up Vanecek's 5-hole, and slid the puck into the net.
After the goal, the Islander did not sit back and poured the offense on. Both teams had 19 shots on goal through two periods. In the third, New York doubled up the Caps 20-10.