As close as the New York Islanders’ 3-1 win was in Game 6, it sounds like the Washington Capitals believe that there was a noticeable difference in the two teams’ effort levels.
Nicklas Backstrom mentioned the word “hungrier” twice in less than two minutes while describing Washington’s efforts, which indicates disappointment (and maybe an urge to leave the locker room for dinner). Head coach Barry Trotz admitted that the Islanders desperation level was “a little bit higher than ours,” according to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt.
Should their be some concern about Washington’s historic difficulty to close out opponents?
Overall, the Capitals seemed a bit letdown by their efforts, but certainly not devastated. This contest was tight much like the majority of the contests in this series, as John Tavares said right after the Islanders’ win.
A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…
Lightning at Red Wings, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN
Petr Mrazek is a big reason why the Detroit Red Wings are in a position to take a 3-1 series lead tonight. The 23-year-old is 7-5-1 with a .935 save percentage and four shutouts since Feb. 5. Mrazek is also 3-1 with two shutouts and a .945 in four starts against the Lightning. For the Bolts, Steven Stamkos is slumping. The captain has just two assists in his last four games and three assists in his last 13. Against the Wings, Stamkos has been held without a goal in four games. He’s failed to register a goal in six straight postseason games overall. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 4 tonight.
Islanders at Capitals, 7:00 p.m. ET on CNBC
Nicklas Backstrom is leading the charge for the Washington Capitals, who will look to take a 3-2 series lead tonight. Backstrom has three goals and three assists in the first four games of the series including the overtime winner in the Caps’ Game 4 win. Islanders’ captain John Tavares was held off the score sheet on Tuesday for the first time since March 28, but the Verizon Center has been a welcoming environment for Tavares, who has five points in four games in Washington. Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire will be on the call tonight.
Blackhawks at Predators 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
The Chicago Blackhawks will look to finish things off against the Nashville Predators tonight as the series moves to the Bridgestone Arena for Game 5. Brent Seabrook scored a minute into the third overtime and Scott Darling made 50 saves as Chicago took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 win early Wednesday morning. The Blackhawks have won seven of 10 postseason meetings between the two clubs and three of five in Nashville. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti are on the call for Game 5.
Flames at Canucks 10:00 p.m. ET on CNBC
Like the Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames can wrap up their series with the Vancouver Canucks with a win tonight. The Flames used a 3-1 win on Tuesday night to take a stranglehold on the series heading back to Vancouver for Game 5. The Calgary Flames haven’t won a playoff series since 2004 – the year they lost in the final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is their sixth series since the ’04 playoffs. Calgary has lost its last five games when they’ve had opponents on the brink of elimination. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Scott Oake have the call tonight.
Last time the New York Islanders were in overtime, John Tavares worked some magic. This time, he was on the short end of his broken stick, as Nicklas Backstrom’s OT-winner gave the Washington Capitals a 2-1 (OT) win and tied the series at 2-2.
After breaking up the big guns to try to spread their offense out, Barry Trotz went back to what has worked for Washington for many years, putting Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin together. That decision ended up being wise, as they combined for the Caps’ two goals.
The Islanders carried the play for noteworthy chunks of time, as you can see from this Natural Stat Trick graph:
That said, the Capitals seemed to seize the moment in overtime, generating a 7-3 shot advantage during that abbreviated period. Eventually that paid off, as Backstrom managed to deflect a puck in for a crucial Capitals win.
Many expected this series to be one of the most even-matched battles in the East, and with this crucial turn, that could very well be the case.
It’s also starting to ratchet up the intensity, due in large part to the Tasmanian Devil-like presence of Tom Wilson.
In other words, we have ourselves a genuine feud. We’ll see how things turn as the series shifts back to the Verizon Center for Game 5, then.
Thanks to a third period marker from Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals managed to force extra time in this afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders, but it took captain John Tavares just 15 seconds of overtime to make Backstrom and Washington’s efforts moot.
That has to be frustrating, but Washington can’t afford to get frustrated.
“We need to forget this one and understand what we need to do to be successful in the next one,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz told CSN Washington.
“We know the environment; we know the opposition. We’ll probably make a couple of subtle changes and go back at it. We’ll pout about it for an hour and let it go and have positive thoughts going forward.”
Washington is now down 2-1 in the series, so naturally another loss on Tuesday would push the Capitals to the brink. The pressure is on Alex Ovechkin in particular after the Islanders managed to limit him to three shots on goal Sunday. Special teams are another big X-factor given that the squads are a combined 1-for-12 with the man advantage in this series. The power play is particularly important for Washington given that it was one of its main strengths in the regular season.
On the plus side, Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby returned from an illness and stopped 40 of 42 shots.
“He was square to the puck,” Trotz said. “They were putting pucks on him from everywhere. He responded well. He looked sharp.”
Washington is in a difficult position, but it certainly has reasons to believe it can bounce back.
Video: Tavares, Islanders take 2-1 series lead with OT win
The New York Islanders needed just 15 seconds of overtime to net the game-winner.
John Tavares put home the rebound off of a Nikolay Kulemin shot for his first of the playoffs.
The Islanders’ captain had a league-high four overtime winners in the regular season.
New York dominated the first two periods out-shooting the Caps 33-13.
Kyle Okposo’s second of the playoffs gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead after two periods.
Nicklas Backstrom tied it 1-1 at 13:54 of the third to force overtime.
Capitals forward Eric Fehr left the game early in the first period with an upper body injury following a hit from Okposo and did not return.
Braden Holtby, who missed Game 2 due to illness, made 40 saves in the loss.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 24 shots for the win.