The Washington Capitals did not need a reminder that the New York Islanders have been playing urgent playoff hockey for almost two weeks.
They sure received one Wednesday afternoon.
The Capitals strive to match the Islanders’ intensity on Friday night, when they face New York in Game 2 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series in Toronto.
On Wednesday, the Islanders scored four unanswered goals in a span of just under 13 minutes bridging the second and third periods en route to a 4-2 victory.
Jordan Eberle scored with 63 seconds left in the second to cut the deficit in half and captain Anders Lee tallied 51 seconds into the third. Josh Bailey produced the go-ahead goal at 6:52 and had the assist on Anthony Beauvillier’s insurance goal with 8:05 remaining.
“Unfortunately it’s a tough reminder, walking away with a loss after being up two, that playoff hockey’s here and we have to be ready to play for the full 60 – and as you’ve seen, maybe for an hour or so more after,” Capitals right winger T.J. Oshie said. “Just a terrible, terrible third. Not our style of hockey and hopefully a good learning lesson for us.”
Even the Capitals’ 2-0 lead — built on a pair of power-play goals in the second by Oshie — might have been a bit of fool’s gold. Washington registered just 14 even-strength shots against New York, which won all 11 faceoffs following an icing.
“I want to make sure that I have my best game come next game,” said Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who made 23 saves.
“As a group (and) individually, if we all expect more of ourselves, that’s how we’ve won in the past and that’s how we’re going to do it again. The first game in the series doesn’t say much about how it’s going to go. It’s how you respond from here on out.”
The Game 1 win did provide the Islanders’ blueprint under head coach Barry Trotz, though.
The Islanders, who dispatched the Florida Panthers in four games during the qualifying round, are 7-2 in the playoffs when allowing two goals or fewer under Trotz.
In addition, the Islanders are 7-0 when scoring at least three goals in the playoffs the last two seasons.
“They have a really good team, they got a good power play, they found a way to score a couple,” Bailey said. “We just wanted to keep working. I think that’s playoff hockey.”
And like most playoff hockey series, this one is already heated.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was injured early in the first period after taking a hard hit to the chest from Lee. Backstrom, who sat out after the first intermission, has been ruled out for Game 2.
Washington coach Todd Reirden called the hit “predatory.”
“It was a late hit on an unexpected player that was in a spot (where) he was extremely vulnerable,” Reirden said.
Lee ended up skirmishing in the first with defenseman John Carlson and in the second with longtime Islanders foil Tom Wilson, whose hard hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in the 2015 Eastern Conference quarterfinals left the New York defenseman with a career-ending concussion.
“Of course they’re going to react, I know what they think of Nick Backstrom in that locker room,” Trotz said. “The hit was made, then they responded. Wilson went after Lee, they fought and that’s probably the end of it. We’ll see.”
–Field Level Media