The first game of the Islanders four-game road trip was a good news-bad news proposition that ended on a sour note.
The good news is, the second period of Tuesday’s Islanders-Capitals game was an impressive show of offense; during a 5:04 span, five goals were scored. The bad news is, four of them were scored by the Caps, while the shell-shocked Isles only scored one. All told, the home team potted five goals in the second period en route to a humbling 6-2 win over the visiting Isles.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov allowed six goals on 36 shots. He looked shaky on several plays, out of his element even, as the Caps seemingly scored on him at will. After missing two games Caps winger Alex Ovechkin returned to active duty with a vengeance, notching a pair of goals and an assist.
The Washington power play has been dangerous this season, clicking at 23.6%, fourth best in the league. Two of their six were power play markers but, while not a good thing, can’t really be regarded as the deciding factor of the game. The biggest, most consistent problem is the Isles’ inability to maintain a high level of intensity over a full sixty minutes. Rarely have they managed to press the attack, rocking their opponent back on their heels, consistently. They seem to lapse into complacency for minutes at a time, and in this case, a few minutes was all it took to cost them the game.
It wasn’t all bad news, though. Kyle Okposo continued his torrid pace, connecting for his fifth goal of the season and adding an assist, extending his team-leading total to 19 points. Captain John Tavares also had a goal, his seventh, along with a helper. Steady Frans Nielsen stayed in the scoring race mix, adding his 17th point with an assist on Tavares’ goal.
To their credit, the Isles didn’t show any signs of throwing in the towel. They matched the Caps nearly shot for shot, hammering Washington goaltender Braden Holtby with a barrage in the early going of the third period. But Washington’s power play is far from their only weapon, and Holtby has played extremely well of late. Tonight was no exception, as he has the answer to nearly everything the Isles threw at him.
As I indicated in a previous article I would suggest there is an excellent chance Kevin Poulin gets the nod for the Carolina game, especially given the way Nabokov struggled against Washington. Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that Washington is on a bit of a roll of late, while the rest of the opponents along the way on the road trip are in slumps of varying lengths. They’re a talent-laden team with some dangerous weapons at their disposal.
This is, however, the first real shellacking the Isles have been handed this season. It’s not as if they’ve gotten shelled on a regular basis, and this is just one more in a long, painful series of thrashings. While Poulin will almost certainly start against the Hurricanes on Thursday, it’s a short-term solution to what may be seen as the early stages of a long-term problem. Nabokov appears to be wearing down under the workload, a very bad sign at this early stage of the year. All signs point to the need for some relief in goal sooner or later. Tuesday’s game against Washington may prove to be the catalyst that accelerates the process.