Happy Opening Day! Oh, wait. I’m sorry, wrong sport. Please forgive the error, but when you see 12 combined goals scored in a single game, you might wonder what sport you’re watching.
Thursday Night at Nassau Coliseum the Islanders and Capitals celebrated April Fool’s Day and MLB Opening Day by engaging in a wacky and at times, baseball-esque, see-saw affair that saw the Isles pull out the 8-4 victory in large part to 11 different players collecting points; including a hat-trick and five-points by Mathew Barzal.
The Capitals certainly must have thought the Hockey Gods were playing a cruel prank on them when T.J. Oshie knocked his own goalie, Ilya Samsonov out of the game just 30-seconds into the first period. Oshie was skating behind his own net and accidentally had his shoulder slam right into the head of Samsonov, who went down like Joe Frazier against George Foreman.
Samsonov was down on the ice for a while and eventually made his way off under his own power (good news there) to undergo the NHL’s concussion protocols.
Vitek Vanecek came in for Samsonov and was promptly gifted with a 1-0 lead when John Carlson scored just 1:01 into the game; on the first shot of the game no less.
It was the fifth-straight game the Islanders have surrendered the first goal; a troubling trend. But, at least it was only one-goal and not two or three.
Then, with 5:02 gone by in the opening period, Jordan Eberle tied the game off a slick passing play by Leo Komarov and Mathew Barzal.
Barzal carried the puck from the Isles’ zone into the Capitals’ zone and dished it to Komarov along the wall. Uncle Leo spotted Eberle flying down the middle of the ice unchecked and sent a beauty of a pass cross-ice that Eberle sniped past Vanecek’s glove to stabilize the Islanders and tie the game 1-1.
Things settled down a bit from there, but only temporarily as 11:07 after Eberle’s goal, Mathew Barzal went coast-to-coast, zipping through each of the Capitals’ skaters and went top-shelf against Vanecek for the 2-1 Islanders lead.
For Barzal, it was yet another entry into the contest for Goal-of-The-Year Honors; a distinction he is trying to prevent others from even being considered for.
The Boys from Long Island had their first lead of the night, but they were by no means comfortable with such a slim advantage and 1:23 after Barzal’s marker, the Capitals lost the puck in their own zone, which led to a goalmouth scramble for the puck. Josh Bailey poked at it and eventually the puck found its way to Brock Nelson, who deposited it into the back of Washington’s net for the 3-1 lead.
The Nassaumen enjoyed their two-goal lead for precisely 22-seconds before a face-off play in their own zone went awry and Daniel Sprong netted a goal to bring the Capitals within 3-2.
At that point, you had to know the 3-2 score wouldn’t last long; which it didn’t.
59-seconds after Sprong’s goal, Barzal potted his second of the game (and third point) by pulling out the spin-o-rama move to finish off Jordan Eberle’s cross-crease pass for the 4-2 lead. On the play, Samsonov, who had returned a few moments earlier, was caught way out of position and he clearly didn’t look right, however, he remained in net for the Capitals for the rest of the game.
On to the second period and hopefully a calmer one.
Oops, I meant another crazy one.
Just 3:03 into the middle period, Casey Cizikas added to the Isles’ lead when the Nassaumen’s forecheck led to him getting a couple of whacks at the puck along the side of Washington’s net. On the second whack, the puck popped up and over Samsonov and into the net for the 5-2 Islanders lead.
Then the influence of now Ex-NHL Referee, Tim Peel took over the game and granted the Capitals a power-play; claiming the Isles had too many men on the ice. (A closer review of the alleged penalty shows it was a phantom, excuse me, even up, call).
Of course, Alex Ovechkin loves the power-play and from his office whipped the puck towards Semyon Varlamov. The puck deflected off T.J. Oshie’s skates and past Varlamov for yet another Capitals power-play goal against the Isles this season — 5-3 the score.
1:21 after Oshie’s goal, Barzal and Eberle went up the ice in a two-on-one odd man rush and Barzal’s pass to Eberle was picture perfect as Eberle sniped his second goal of the game past Samsonov for the 6-3 lead.
Finally, the period and the game calmed down after that; at least until the final minute of the period when John Carlson ripped his second goal of the game past Varlamov at the 19:01 mark of the period to bring Washington within 6-4 heading into the third period.
With both teams having decided defense wasn’t going to be played through 40-minutes, you could probably guess how the third period started.
That’s right, 3:13 into the third period, Josh Bailey tacked on the extra point to the Isles touchdown when he found the ping-ponging puck and fired a shot top-shelf, past Samsonov from the lower portion of the right face-off circle for the 7-4 Islanders lead.
At 7-4 the game should have been over, but it wasn’t. There was still the question as to whether Barzal or Eberle would complete the hat-trick. As it turns out, Barzal had two Grade-A chances throughout the course of the period and was stonewalled on both.
But then, with 1:06 remaining in the game, Barzal, a self-admitting baseball fan, batted the loose puck out of mid-air and past Samsonov to complete his hat-trick and bring the final score to 8-4 Islanders.
Of course, just because the scoring was done, that doesn’t mean the action was over as Zdeno Chara and Matt Martin dropped the gloves as the clock expired and danced around a little before Chara whipped Martin down to the ice.
The feisty Martin later told reporters: “I don’t think we are going to back down from anybody.” He’s right, the Islanders certainly won’t back down from anyone.
Head Coach Barry Trotz added: “It all started with their 26 (Dowd), following Pageau all over the ice, cross-checked him about eight times…It’s just unnecessary.”
The extracurriculars, plus the lopsided score, indicate this will be a very interesting month of April as the Isles and Capitals will meet four more times in the coming few weeks; with each matchup likely having a direct affect on who will finish in first place in the Eastern — MassMutual — Division.
The star of the evening, Barzal summed up the game with three simple words: “That was exciting.”
The Isles went 0-for-2 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 18-for-92…Mathew Barzal registered a hat-trick and two-assists for a five-point game…Jordan Eberle had two-goals and an assist for three points…Josh Bailey finished with a goal and two-assists for three points…Scott Mayfield and Brock Nelson rounded out the Isles’ multi-point performers with two each: two-assists for Mayfield and a goal and an assist for Nelson…The Isles had 11 different players earn at least one point…Their eight-goal output was the Isles highest of the season and it was the fifth time in franchise history they’ve hung an eight-spot on the Capitals.
Sunday April 3rd Islanders vs Flyers at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).