UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday in front of a raucous sellout crowd at Nassau Coliseum:
How it happened: With 9:27 remaining in regulation and the Islanders buzzing inside the Capital’ defensive zone, Isles captain John Tavares was railroaded by Alex Ovechkin in the right corner. But while Tavares slowly got to his knees and the crowd howled in anger, Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy scooped up the puck and fed Nikolay Kulemin in the slot. Kulemin faked right and beat Braden Holtby with a forehand to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The Caps pulled Holtby for an extra attacker with 1:31 to play, but Cal Clutterbuck scored into an empty net with 52.6 seconds remaining to send the crowd into a frenzy with chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
What it means: The Capitals and Islanders will return for Game 7 on Monday night at Verizon Center. The winner will face the New York Rangers, who eliminated the Penguins in five games in their first-round series.
How it ended: John Carlson took a slap shot just as the final horn sounded, sparking a mini-melee after the game. Marcus Johansson threw a handful of punches and Alex Ovechkin tackled one of the Islanders. Clutterbuck then took his stick and began smashing the helmet that belonged to Johansson. Then, as the Caps left the ice, Jason Chimera got into a verbal fight weith a fan on the front row near the tunnel that leads to the visiting dressing room.
Goal breakdown: The Isles scored first for the fourth time in the series when John Tavares snapped a wicked wrist shot past Braden Holtby on the Isles’ second shot of the game at the 6:56 mark. Caps defenseman Brooks stepped up to take out Ryan Strome in the neutral zone and Tavares used John Carlson and linemate Brock Nelson as a screen. Holtby leaned to his right to get a view of the shot, but Tavares’ shot went right, just inside the right post.
The Caps had three power plays in the opening period, two of them compliments of Islanders captain John Tavares, and finally cashed in with 4.3 seconds left. John Carlson’s shot from the right point found its way through a screen in front of Jaroslav Halak for his first goal of the playoffs and sixth of his post-season career. Tavares was not happy with the slashing call that put him to the box and considering the magnitude of the game, he appeared to have a legitimate argument since his tap on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s arm seemed nothing more than that.
Down Donovan: Already down to just four experienced defensemen and relying on a pair of blue liners with little NHL experience, the Isles were forced to play without defenseman Matt Donovan for 10 minutes after he took a 10-minute misconduct late in the second period. Donovan was upset at Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen for his clean, open-ice hit on Mikhail Grabovski, who returned in Game 5 after missing two months with a concussion. Judging by their reaction to Lubo Visnovsky getting knocked out of the series by Tom Wilson, the Islanders don’t like to see teammates with a history of concussions being targeted.