There’s no “I” in Team. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.
Through the first games of the season, the Islanders had totaled nine goals for and eight against, while going 3-2-0 before facing the short-handed Capitals — who were missing: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov, courtesy of the NHL’s COVID List, as well as Tom WIlson who was nursing an injury — Tuesday night in Washington D.C. at Capital One Arena.
The Boys from Long Island fell into a familiar trap against the Capitals as they fell 3-2, in large part due to their inability to get contributions from all over the lineup; something Head Coach Barry Trotz had made a point to say the team needed when he addressed the media on Monday.
“We have success as a group when everybody contributes,” said Trotz. “Some guys have to contribute offensively and some guys will have to do it with the physical play, the checking prowess, those type of things. Whatever you bring to the table, you better bring it.”
Against Washington, the Nassaumen initially had trouble living up to Trotz’s words as they struggled to find their sea legs in the early going, being outshot 9-2 at one point. But just as the waves in the sea change, so too did the Islanders’ game; it just took a little longer than they wanted.
Caps’ perennial Norris Trophy candidate, John Carlson opened the scoring when he cleaned up a loose puck to the side of Semyon Varlamov at 11:06 of the first period. Carlson’s power-play goal was a rarity as the Isles have been stout defenders on the penalty-kill so far this season; but these things do happen from time to time.
Varlamov probably wanted the puck back on that goal as he initially got a glove on Justin Schultz’s shot from the point, but the little rubber biscuit knuckled and landed right on Carlson’s blade, who did not miss. 1-0 Capitals.
Fear not though Islanders fans, 4:27 later, Noah Dobson — if you haven’t already, get used to reading that name — fired a shot from just inside the blue line through traffic that deflected off Washington D-man, Brenden Dillon’s skate or leg and past netminder Vitek Vanecek to tie the game at one. The assists belonged to Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle because nobody else was able to get something going for the Isles.
“It was definitely nice to get one to go in,” said Dobson. “Just try to throw a puck on net, got a good bounce.”
That did it for the action in the first period, however, the Nassaumen carried their momentum over into the start of the second period as the ice was tilted early in favor of the visitors.
With New York buzzing it was only a matter of time before they cashed in; it just didn’t happen when you thought (maybe hoped?) it would. At 7:19 of the middle period, Carl Hagelin was sent to the sin bin for boarding Adam Pelech, who took quite a beating throughout the period, to send the Islanders to the power-play for the first time in the game.
Entering the game, the Isles’ man-advantage units were just 4-for-22. Um…make that 4-for-23 as they failed to get one past Vanecek during the allotted two-minutes. But the momentum established by the Isles offense continued to manifest itself during the return to even-strength and who but Mathew Barzal capitalized to put his team up 2-1. Dobson’s goal was the first by an Isles’ D-man this season.
New Capitals defenseman, Zdeno Chara, who was stationed below the Caps’ goal line, sent the puck up the ice to nobody in particular, but it was picked off (pick-sixed really, for you football fans) by Barzal, who went forehand-backhand and put the puck over Vanecek’s blocker-side shoulder at 10:01 for the 2-1 Isles lead.
Try as they might, the Boys from Long could not add to their lead, even with the Capitals committing two more penalties during the period — Nicklas Backstrom for interference and Lars Eller for tripping. For those of you keeping track at home, that brought the Isles power-play season total to 4-for-25. Yikes!
“It’s playoff mentality right now and I’m not sure we have our playoff mentality yet. And it’s pissing me off,” said Trotz after the game.
While the Nassaumen could not add to their ledger during the middle period, the Capitals, however, did. Daniel Sprong fired a wrister, bar down, from the high slot that may have surprised Varlamov and scored his first career goal at 17:21 of the period to tie the game at 2.
And that’s where the score remained when the third period began. The Isles started the period with some time remaining on the power-play thanks to the aforementioned Lars Eller tripping penalty but as you already know, they did not convert.
The teams remained tied as the period creeped into the final 9:01, and that’s when things got interesting.
Leo Komarov, who was only in the lineup due to Anthony Beauvillier’s injury, committed a penalty by slamming Lars Eller into the boards. A penalty for sure. Did it deserve the five-minute major designation it received? Perhaps not. A replay review upheld the call and sent the Isles to the most important of penalty-kills.
And for five-minutes the Boys from Long Island managed to keep their bodies and sticks in all the right places as they allowed only a single shot on goal (by Backstrom) and more importantly, no goals to keep the tie score intact as regulation time wound down.
With Eller and Backstrom both headed to the dressing room to get looked at, it appeared New York would have the edge as time wound down. But that wasn’t the case as Caps’ defenseman Justin Schultz received a pass from Garnet Hathaway, got in behind Komarov and sniped the puck low, blocker side on Varlamov for the 3-2 Washington lead with just 26.4 seconds to go.
“We had that huge five-minute kill there,” said Andy Greene after the game. “At that point, there’s three minutes left or something like that. At that point, we have to figure out how to get to the end of the game and find the extra point.”
Anders Lee came close to scoring with 7.2 seconds to go, but he was turned aside by Vanecek to seal the Isles’ loss.
“We had one line tonight,” said Trotz after the game. “That’s all that I felt I had. We’re going to shake it up and put some people in.”
The loss stings, however, these teams will reconvene on Thursday and the Islanders will surely be extra motivated to even the ledger.
Mathew Barzal, Noah Dobson and Ryan Pulock continue to be bright spots for the Islanders with their strong play in all zones…Leo Komarov had a nightmare third period while filling in for the injured Anthony Beauvillier…Adam Pelech, Nick Leddy and Josh Bailey each had some strong moments, it just wasn’t enough…Isles’ power-play continues to flounder as it finished the game 0-for-3 and 4-for-25 on the season.
Thursday January 28th Islanders at Capitals at Capital One Arena at 7pm(EST).