UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The New York Islanders and Washington Capitals played 65 minutes of scoreless hockey before Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Semyon Varlamov in the shootout to secure a 1-0 win for Washington.
The win moved Washington into sole possession of first place in the East Division and set the stage for the next two games, where the New York Islanders and Washington will face each other two more times as they continue to jockey for playoff positioning. The Islanders dropped into third place in the division since they have fewer regulation wins than Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh and Boston both won on Thursday night.
“It’s going to be a tight game every time we play them,” Leddy said. “They’re a good team. They can play that tight defense like we can. They can open it up and play track meet. They have a lot of high-end skill. They’re a good team, but so are we and it’s definitely every time you play them a good measuring stick.”
Anthony Beauvillier had scored in the shootout to give the Islanders an early edge. However, Nicklas Backstrom erased that on Washington’s next attempt, and then Kuznetsov scored the winner in the third round.
“It was nothing-nothing, so it was just sticking to our game plan,” Beauvillier said about the Islanders’ plan as the game progressed. “I thought both teams played really well tonight with not a lot of space and obviously Varly was really good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the win for him.”
The clash between Washington and New York had massive implications for the standings with the Islanders and Washington tied for first place entering the night.
The Islanders let a strong first-period effort go to waste on Thursday, where the Islanders controlled the play in the opening 20 minutes. The Islanders outshot Washington 15-4 in the first and forced Ilya Samsonov to make several tough saves to keep the game scoreless.
“It was tough, I thought Samsonov played really good,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said about the first period. “If we could have gotten a lead I think it would have given us a little spark hopefully for the second. We know this is a good team that we’re playing and it’s going to come in waves.”
Samsonov finished the night with 26 saves. Varlamov had a 28 save effort, with the Islanders’ netminder having to pick up his game in the second and third as Washington outshot New York 22-10 in the final 40 minutes.
The Islanders’ power play didn’t do them any favors either, going 0-for-2 on the night. New York failed to generate many chances during the man-advantage opting to pass the puck and look for the perfect play instead of putting it on net.
“I thought they were good and they pressured us hard, Leddy said about the Washington penalty kill. “But at the end of the day we knew they had very good special teams, especially their power play. On (our) power play too, do our best to move the quick. Do our best to create opportunities and at least get some momentum.”
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the Islanders Lineup on Thursday night after missing three straight games with an undisclosed injury. The Islanders fourth-liner logged 13:02 against Washington.
Clutterbuck’s return meant a return to the top line for Leo Komarov. In a surprise move, Travis Zajac was a scratch along with Oliver Wahlstrom.
The Islanders bench boss said that everyone had been healthy and available for the game.