Finally! A win! As Brenden Dillon pointed out it took them a little while to finally wake up
In what many feared might be Braden Holtby’s last game, the Caps managed to pull out an incredibly hard-fought win.
The big question heading into last night’s game was whether or not Nicklas Backstrom would be playing, something which Todd Reirden could not answer for us at morning skate.
Of course, that answer came close to 7:30pm when Backstrom did not participate in the pre-game warm-up, confirming that he would not be a participant in Game 4.
The other big pre-game storyline was whether or not this would be Braden Holtby’s last game as a Capital, seeing as his contract expires this season and he will likely be signing for a much higher AAV than the Caps have salary cap space for.
The early going looked to be more of the same for the Caps, with Dillon taking a penalty in the first minute of the game. But the Caps managed to stay perfect on the PK, something that has been an incredible strength of theirs, both in the round robin, and in this first round series against the Islanders.
Then came what looked to be a dagger from JG Pageau
That deflection goal from the Islanders was soon followed by this play, where the Islanders simply out hustled the Caps on the rush:
The first period was absolutely brutal for the Caps, as they were demolished in terms of shot attempts. According to Natural Stat Trick, the shot attempts for the period were 24-20 in favor of the Islanders, but it really wasn’t that close. At one point, the Islanders were up 16-1 in that regard.
But after a missed trip against Ovechkin late in the period, which enraged the Capital’s captain, the momentum seemed to change.
The second period was a penalty box parade for both teams, including, at one point, a 5v3 in the Caps favor. They opened this 5v3 with some rough play, including a failed keep-in which led to an offsides call. At this point, a lot of us had all but given up hope for this game. But then, just seconds after it was over, Kuzy did this:
The second period was dominant for the Caps. They controlled the pace of play almost the entire period. Only half the period was played 5 on 5 but the Caps dominated it. According to Natural Stat Trick, they owned over 78% of the 5v5 expected goals in that period. Not only that, the penalty box parade continued for the Islanders, leading to this bomb from Ovechkin’s office.
The third period was an absolute master piece by the Caps. They dominated the pace of play, owning over 85% of Natural Stat Trick’s expected 5v5 goals, and, at one point in that period, that number was over 95%. Of course, it was the Capitals’ captain taking the first and final lead for the boys in white, on what looked like a vintage Ovechkin goal on the rush.
Squeezing that shot between Varlamov’s blocker and his body ultimately sealed the deal for the Caps. The last two periods of last night’s game were the two periods the Caps have been waiting for, for months now, but particularly in this series against the Islanders.
There is definitely still a long way to go before the Caps can cement their legacy in NHL history, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. What’s important, is that there is a little bit more hockey to be played. See you Thursday, and make sure you bring your shovel, not your broom.