Another two points in the books. Before we get to the good, however, it should be pointed out that, for a good part of the game anyway, they could have been zero points in the books. The Caps would come back from three goals down--twice--in order to win it. I hesitate to say because they often end up proving me wrong, but maybe this team has finally turned that corner with another character win.
Now of course it looked bad early on. Matt Moulson got his 30th for the Islanders midway through the first and Travis Hamonic got a LMGOD to close the first period. Then it turned into the John Tavares show in the second as he planted two goals. He was initially given credit for Hamonic's goal, but it was then changed, so the delayed hat-raining never should have happened at all. Nothing like a premature hat-throwing celebration to get the crowd involved.
Sandwiched between Tavares' two goals was a tally by Mike Knuble. Yes, that Mike Knuble. Too bad this wasn't a home game as the crowd would have absolutely gone nuts. Actually it looked to have been shot in by Dennis Wideman at first, but Knuble, as he is good at doing, got enough of it to get it in.
So at least we were on the board anyway. But that first half the bounces just seemed to go against us. Especially that first goal off the damn glass. But Michal Neuvirth eventually shook off the initial bad start and hung tough the rest of the game. It goes without saying that some of the damage was self-inflicted though. At least Tavares' second goal was. And it was as a result of yet another deep neutral-zone turnover by Alex Ovechkin. Mark my words, those are going to be absolutely killer one of these days.
Yes it looked bad. But then Alex Ovechkin stormed the crease late in the period and collected a rebound from a Brooks Laich shot and put it home. It was our own version of a LMGOD, and unlike the one the Islanders scored, it had an impact on the game.
So the third period starts and the Caps come out full of life and momentum. Two goals is a lot but isn't insurmountable. Sure enough, Dmitry Orlov zoomed into the slot after a dart of a pass from Marcus Johansson and just roofed it past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov. 4-3 Islanders and the pendulum is swinging the other way. Nine minutes later, Ovechkin buzzed the net again and got not one, not two, but three whacks at the puck, finally putting it top shelf on the third try. Tie game. Unbelievable.
The rest of the game was a tense affair as obviously the next goal would decide it. The Caps went into prevent mode and let the play tilt to their end. Overtime was the worst. The Islanders got chance after chance, but Neuvy remained groovy and stopped everything that came at him, including his own teammate Ovechkin who plowed into his blocker hand.
So then came the dreaded skills competition, otherwise referred to as the shootout/ Personally I think if they wanted to be really accurate they should call it the "skate towards the goalie and try to score and pretend like it has anything to do with a real game" competition. Am I giving you the impression that the shootout is an unnecessary gimmick that is wrecking the game? Good.
And while Alex Ovechkin did his bit and scored and Dmitry Orlov choked on his attempt (sorry Dmitry, gotta tell it like I see it) it was Matt Hendricks who put the game away, faking Nabokov out of his pads. Amazing.
It was good to see this team not let down after some unfortunate bounces and some early sloppy play. As Coach Hunter said, they just kept on busting their tails until they got the win. Some much needed grit that came from within is always good to see.
Hard to fathom that Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum would be a real home-ice advantage for the Isles, but that's what it was on the first couple of goals. Strange bounces indeed off of boards, ice, and glass. Ultimately, though, Neuvy would bounce back from it all and have a solid outing, ending things with a clutch save on Mark Streit in the skills competition.
Make no mistake, John Tavares already is a fantastic young player in his own right and last night he proved it again, hat trick or no.. If management can put the right pieces around him, then someday that team just might be a contender.
Unsung heroes of the game--Keith Aucoin and Jay Beagle. Aucoin is fitting in no matter the line or the role he's asked to play. He finished with a +3 rating, which in of itself is very good. It's even better when you consider that he was playing on three different lines each time he got an assist. Beagle, meanwhile, is quickly becoming the heart and soul of the team, blocking shots, taking key faceoffs, and hitting anything that moves. He led the team in the latter category with four hits. Now, if only he didn't take so many penalties.....and if only one of those didn't lead to a goal. In an inspiring display of grit, he took a hard shot that clearly gave him some discomfort, as Joe B would say. This during a key penalty kill in the first...he limped back to the dressing room afterwards. However, he would return later on in the period.
Speaking of special teams play......Zero power plays? Seriously? And five for the Islanders? If that isn't a shining example of crappy officiating I have no idea what is. Jay Beagle was mugged when he charged towards the net, Marcus Johansson had his stick chopped out of his hands. And no call. If referees Dean Morton and Don Van Massenhoven are part of the officiating crews for ANY round of the playoffs, it will prove once and for all that the system truly is flawed. Because they're both awful referees.
And finally, though he had a less than ideal ending, flubbing his shootout attempt, Dmitry Orlov continues to be the NHL's best-kept secret. He is thriving in an increased role brought on by Mike Green's suspension, which gets lifted Friday against Winnipeg.
And about those Jets....it would be a wonderful thing to come away with two regulation points against them. Because to do so would put them eight points behind and the Caps own the tiebreaker. That would quiet them and their fans, for at least the rest of the year. Sorry, but I'm not on the bandwagon that it would be the feel-good story of the year. The fact of the matter is that they haven't earned diddly. No team has...yet.
Twelve games left, time for the Caps to earn something. Other than respect. And that includes the Captain--could it be that he's finally learning to carry this team and rally it when needed?