Washington heads into tonight’s pivotal Game 4 against the Islanders down 2-1 in the series and, to hear d-man Matt Niskanen explain it, the Caps are keenly aware of how crucial it is to even things up.
“Three-one sounds a lot different than 2-2,” Niskanen said, per the Washington Post. “We’ve got to steal one in this building at some point.
“Biggest game of the year for us.”
Niskanen’s not wrong. According to WhoWins.com, teams that take a 3-1 lead go on to win the series 91 percent of the time, with 56 percent of those decided in Game 5.
For the Caps to score a victory at Nassau tonight, though, several things need to happen. The offense needs to get on track after scoring just six goals in three games, four of which came in Game 2. Scoring first would be a welcome change as well, as Washington has surrendered the opening tally in every game thus far.
“It’d be huge,” head coach Barry Trotz told the Post. “We’ve been chasing this whole series.”
A more productive Alex Ovechkin would also be a boon. Washington’s captain has just one point this series despite averaging over 20 minutes per game while firing a team-high 15 shots on net. It’ll be interesting to see if Trotz can devise a way to get Ovechkin away from Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who’s basically been Ovechkin’s shadow — but it won’t be easy, given New York’s rather enjoying the matchup and will have last change tonight.
“You can see [Boychuk’s] played in a lot of playoff games — his experience, his ability to contribute in all areas of the game and certainly playing a lot against [No.] 8,” Isles captain John Tavares said, per ESPN. “It’s a tough job, and he’s been doing a great job for us.”
Finally, there’s the Long Island crowd. It was raucous for Game 3 and many expect it to be the same tonight, allowing the Isles to feed off the energy.
“It was a great atmosphere in both the buildings the last two games, and you can feed off your crowd,” Trotz said after Game 3. “I thought we fed off ours, I thought they fed off theirs. We got it quiet when we got it tied up, but they were playing pretty good hockey and keeping the crowd in it.
“We’ve got to pull that momentum away from them.”