Wow, that felt like a playoff game. While the game was not as close as the score might seem (the Islands hit several posts and were dominant overall), neither team wanted to give an inch in the battle for first place in the division.
Both goalkeepers were phenomenal, and it was more than 50 minutes before Brock Nelson could break the deadlock. Varlamov had to be great for the islanders on a few occasions, ensuring that the team’s hard work was rewarded in a game where goals were much harder to find than the 8-4 scoreline the last time these two teams met. .
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Noah Dobson hit the post early on a shot that made Vitek Vanecek beat, and Vanecek made a good save on Cal Clutterbuck’s follow-up shot.
Tom Wilson sent the Isles to the PP after tripping over Jordan Eberle, and in that PP Eberle crashed into the post.
Oliver Wahlstrom went to the locker room during the first period, but would return for the beginning of the second.
The Islanders had a fantastic scoring opportunity after hemming Ovechkin’s line, keeping them out in a nearly two-minute turn that forced them to freeze the puck. They were unable to do anything in the offensive zone draw that followed, however, and the Caps narrowly escaped. They were also given a lifeline at the end of the period, when Mat Barzal was basically given a phantom penalty for interference with 16 seconds left.
The islanders killed that penalty, keeping the game scoreless. Adam Pelech was limping to the bench after a shot from Ovechkin struck him in the ankle, and after showing some visible discomfort, he returned to the ice and was back to normal. Scary moment there though, when he wasn’t putting a lot of weight on his ankle.
Anthony Beauvillier went into the box with another bizarre penalty, for closing his hand on the puck as he gloved it from the air. On the death penalty, Casey Cizikas lost her cane early but ultimately didn’t take much into account and the Islands were able to kill this one too.
Varlamov had to make a great save on Daniel Sprong, and Jordan Eberle hit the post again with a backhand that would have been a very nice goal.
And this is where the game really started to improve.
Varlamov made a big save over Carl Hagelin after Noah Dobson ran out of options to get out of the zone cleanly with the puck. At the other end, Mat Barzal set up Matt Martin, who shot high over Vanecek. Back at the other end, Varlamov stopped a tip from Jakub Vrana.
Oliver Wahlstrom received a penalty after going through a couple of capitals before being cut. Vanecek made a great save to Barzal in the power play, but the Caps eventually killed him.
Scott Mayfield almost gave away a goal after struggling with the puck and causing Conor Sheary to slip away, but Varlamov made the save.
After that, Brock Nelson finally, thankfully, broke the deadlock in favor of the islanders. Beauvillier shoved the puck into the area and threw it to the boards. That eventually got to Ryan Pulock, who took a shot that Bailey got a piece of, and then Nelson found the puck and scored it five holes past Vanecek.
Nelson nearly got a second later, stealing the puck from the Caps and landing a decent shot, but Vanecek made the save on that one.
Barzal was stolen by Vanecek after a good pass from Leo Komarov (!) And the Caps hit the post to keep it 1-0.
The Capitals took their goalkeeper out, and the scariest moment came when the puck left the glass area, but the referees huddled together to potentially call for a penalty on that play despite the deviation with 4.6 seconds left. In the end they didn’t, and the Islands were able to kill the rest of the clock, earning the victory and a 29 save shutout for Varlamov.
- The Islands improve to 16-1-2 at the Coliseum, the first regulation loss being the best in the league.
- Kieffer Bellows returned to the lineup tonight and made some remarkably good plays on defense. Again, I really don’t know why Trotz doesn’t like having him in the lineup regularly!
- Wahlstrom hasn’t put any points on the board since a goal against Boston on March 25, but he’s played well and could probably use a hit in his ice time. That move against the Caps defense was Barzal-style, and that’s the kind of talent this team needs the most.
- Speaking of adding talent, it’s time for this team to make some moves. Top line Leo Komarov has survived in a pinch, but Barzal and Eberle need a real top line LW to play.
Until next time
The home position then continues as the Islanders have their penultimate meeting with the Flyers on Thursday, April 8. Let’s get another 2 points!