Cleat Geeks

Washington leaves Islanders stranded

After powering through all but one period in the first three games versus Washington, the New York Islanders find themselves facing elimination heading into Saturday’s playoff matchup against the Capitals.

One of the most exciting elements of the NHL playoffs is how easily things can change in a best-of-seven series. Heading into game four it looked like John Tavares and company were in complete control of the series. The Islanders had outscored Washington 9-6 and if it wasn’t for a third period, game two collapse New York would have had a 3-0 lead.

Game four was a different story. Despite registering nine goals over the first three games, the Islanders had no answer for Washington goaltender Braden Holtby who made 36 saves and lead his team to a 2-1 victory. A win in game four meant the Caps were tied heading back to Washington. With three games left in the series, Washington had reclaimed home ice advantage.

Going into game four Washington was hoping to build on the moment of a big win in Nasseau Coliseum, home of the Islanders. Tavares got the scoring started for New York but Washington answered quickly with a goal of their own. The Caps wouldn’t look back, scoring another four unanswered goals to take game five.

Washington has been able to wear down New York physically despite being statistically out-checked in the series. Unlike the Islanders, however, the Capitals have big imposing bodies that over a seven game series will wear down the other team. Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera are such a pivotal part of the Capitals because they can maul opponents but still find their way onto the score sheet. With Washington up 2-1 in game five, Laich did exactly that. After delivering a crushing blow behind New York’s net, Laich found a spot in front of the net and did what the Capitals have been so good at all series – finding the back of the net and killing any momentum the Islanders may have had.

Everyone knows that big players step up in big situations and with players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom – Backstrom leads all players in the series in goals (3) and points (6), but its all Capitals players that are stepping up and creating secondary scoring. Evgeny Kuznetsov had two goals and an assist for Washington while Marcus Johansson had a pair of helpers.

Game six is set for Saturday in Long Island, New York. After five games it looks like the Islanders are tired and frustrated. If they have any chance of success they will have to muster a lot more than the 23 shots registered against Caps goalie Holtby on Thursday night. New York will also need to generate quality shots on Holtby and make Washington skate. In the first three games New York utilized their speed to get an edge on Washington.

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