Thursday, January 20, 2011

Caps Strike First in Win against Islanders

Prior to tonight, the Caps had won four in a row at Nassau Coliseum and were 5-0-1 here since the start of the 2007-08 season. Four of those six games were decided in overtime, two of them on overtime goals by Alex Ovechkin. Well wouldn’t you know that the Great8 had a hand in getting his team on the board first, feeding the puck to an awaiting Jason Chimera in front of the crease at 3:41 in the opening period. The super speedy Chimera was moved up to play between Ovi and his pal Nick Backstrom and HM is hoping that is a permanent assignment.

End of First Period: Caps 1 – Islanders 0

Meanwhile, Nicklas Backstrom had assists in eight of the last 11 games prior to tonight, reaching the 300-point plateau. Only two Capitals all-time have reached 300 points faster than Backstrom (293 GP): Alex Ovechkin and Mike Gartner. The polite Swedish center had been in a goal-slump of late, which he burst out of by slapping in the rebound off of an Ovechkin shot on the other side of a sprawling Rick DiPietro. The Caps’ celebration didn’t last for long as Michael Grabner flew up the left side and beat Braden Holtby, who was minding the net for the ailing Varlamov and Neuvirth dynamic duo. Speaking of goaltenders, the oft-injured Rick DiPietro was healthy but channeling his best Patrick Roy imitation for much of the middle stanza. Unfortunately, the Caps did not take advantage of the many leisurely jaunts Ricky took out of the crease, leaving the Isles’ wide open. Despite the long-awaited return on talented youngster Kyle Okposo, the Isles did not add another tally in the second.

End of Second Period: Caps 2 – Islanders 1

The always scrappy Islanders picked up the tempo in the third period, ramping up the physical play. Midway through the period, Jack Hillen took exception to a clean (but wrecking) check from the gregarious Matt Hendricks and tempers flared and expletives flew. The Capitals kept up their tight forechecking pressure and the penalty kill unit squashed two more Isles’ power play attempts (the boys killed all six of New York’s power plays on the evening). Braden Holtby played a big role in defending the Islanders on the man advantage and kept Okposo, Tavares and crew off the scoreboard for the remainder of the period.

Final: Capitals 2- Islanders 1

The boys head across the border for a bout with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The Leafs were literally blown away last night by the New York Rangers, who saw a four-goal night from sniper Marian Gaborik in the 7-0 rout. Surely the Capitals will be thinking about former team mate Tomas Fleischmann, who will miss the remainder of the season with a scary pulmonary embolism illness (via Adrian Dater of the Denver Post). I know Caps and Avs fans join me in sending Flash and his family prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery...

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