In a battle between the top two teams in the East Division, it was the Capitals who came out on top Tuesday in a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders. The Islanders entered the game as the hottest team in the league with nine straight wins and 11 wins in their last 12 games. But they were no match for Washington as the Caps pulled even with New York in the standings for first place in the division with 42 points.
Washington has now won six straight and 10 of its last 11.
Here is how it happened.
The Islanders came out swinging in the first period, firing 11 shots on goal with four high-danger opportunities. As good as New York's start to the game was, however, Ilya Samsonov's was better. He turned aside each shot to ensure the Caps were not playing from behind.
New York is a really good team, but they are especially hard to beat when playing from behind. They just suffocate opponents and are a very frustrating team to play against. Samsonov made sure Washington was not put in that position.
Samsonov would finish with 21 saves on 22 shots and continues to look more and more comfortable with every passing game.
Both teams came into this game with a strong defense. This has been the bread and butter of the Islanders since head coach Barry Trotz took over. For Washington, their tight defense has been more of a recent development, but they look very strong in their own end when they play as a five-man unit.
In defensive games, it is often the mistakes that prove to be the difference and that was certainly the case Tuesday.
An offensive-zone turnover by Oliver Wahlstrom led to a 3-on-1 break for Washington that resulted in a goal. The Caps' second goal came off a power play. Down 2-0, Scott Mayfield got tangled up with Richard Panik as time expired in the second. Mayfield took it a step too far, dropping his right glove and slugging Panik in the ear. That earned him a roughing penalty to start the third and Nicklas Backstrom cashed in to make it 3-0 just 28 seconds in.
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On Monday, Ovechkin scored goal No. 717 to tie Phil Esposito for seventh on the all-time goals list. On Tuesday, Ovechkin broke the tie with goal No. 718.
It was a vintage Ovechkin goal as he fired a one-timer from the office on the power play to beat Varlamov.
After a slow start to the season, Ovechkin now has goals in four straight games, five goals in his past six and 11 goals on the season.