In their first-round series against the New York Islanders, the Capitals bent, but didn’t break. A microcosm of that theme could be seen in Game 7 Monday in Washington, when the Caps allowed the Isles to pull even early in the third period, but hung on until Evgeny Kuznetsov scored this terrific goal that turned out to be the deciding marker for both the game and the series:
The Islanders got a tremendous showing from veteran Jaroslav Halak in net, but their injury-depleted lineup (which was without defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic) couldn’t keep the Capitals at bay all night, and their offense couldn’t get much of anything going in the area of Washington goalie Braden Holtby. Indeed, the Islanders managed just 11 shots on net all night, including only four in the final frame. The Caps had 11 shots in the first period (and finished with 26). The supporting cast that had taken the pressure off of superstar John Tavares in the Isles’ wins in this series were silent – defenseman Johnny Boychuk led the team with five shots on net, and nobody other than Frans Nielsen (who scored their only goal) had more than one shot on net – and Tavares himself didn’t have a single shot. It’s amazing Halak was able to keep the score as close as he did.
But although Caps fans should be pleased to see their team’s first playoff series win since Washington beat Boston in 2011-12, they should be aware the team the Capitals are facing in the second round – the deep, skilled and experienced New York Rangers – will be a far more difficult team to eliminate from post-season play. Read more