It was going end eventually, and it finally did in Washington. The Islanders nine-game winning streak vanished with the final buzzer Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Washington netted the first three scores of the game before the Islanders mounted any response, but it was too little, too late.
With the loss, the Islanders are now tied in first place in the East division with Washington at 42 points.
“I felt [Washington] got really good goaltending, their top guys scored for them, especially on the power play — made us pay,” Barry Trotz said. “And they defended hard enough to not allow us to get it close enough to get it tied up.”
Let’s take a look at what went wrong and right in the Islanders first regulation loss since Feb. 20.
Penalty kill issues
Alex Ovechkin has made the top of the left circle his office in his lengthy NHL tenure. It’s no secret he’s shoot any one-time opportunity from that spot on the man advantage. It’s tough to defend, and the Islanders couldn’t stop it Tuesday.
Ovechkin moved into sixth on the all-time scoring list with his 718th goal, unsurprisingly coming from the left circle on the power play and beating Semyon Varlamov up high. No. 8 and Nicklas Backstrom both tallied power-play goals as the Capitals finished 2-for-4 on the night.
“Ovheckin scores that second goal and that sort of turned it for them — I think,” Trotz said. “And then obviously they got the third one
The penalty kill has been a continual problem against Washington this year, which has now converted on 5-of-9 power plays against the Islanders. Trotz added he didn’t think the penalty killers weren’t aggressive enough.
Overall, the Islanders dropped to 80.8 percent on the PK. Trotz was particularly unhappy with Barzal’s cross checking penalty in the second period, which led to a benching halfway into the third, which was “absolutely a message.”
Lack of pushback
Once the Islanders fell down in the second period, there wasn’t a ton of chances going the Islanders way, and Washington seemed to take a page out of New York’s usual strategy to keep the offense at a minimum.
At all strengths over the last two periods, Washington generated 35 overall chances to the Islanders’ 33. At 5-on-5 it was worse for the Islanders, as they did not generate a Corsi of 50 percent over the final 40 minutes.
If there was a bright spot for the Islanders, they did lead in high danger chances at 9-5. Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock each had four to lead the team. The Islanders could’ve lost their last game against the Devils as they juggled lines with the loss of Anders Lee. They didn’t get as lucky this time around.
Yes, this gets a minus, mostly for the context it was lost in. The Islanders have done a tremendous over the last month to put themselves at the top of the division as they played some of the weaker opponents, notably Buffalo.
But in losing Washington, the one team on their heals that they have not beaten this year, they lost their full hold on first place. That’s not cause for panic, but with other teams with games in hand, the Islanders have their work cut out over the final stretch of the season.
A win on the road would have given them at least a bit more of a cushion as their schedule gets tougher.
Wahlstrom continues to score
Oliver Wahlstrom has proven to be a valuable part of the third line and power play, proving that again against Washington. He gave the Islanders a glimmer of hope in the third period with a power-play strike, his sixth goal of the year.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 17, 2021
He’s making it a habit of scoring from the slot, just as he did on what was a redirected shot in this game. He now has 11 points over 23 games this year as he finds his footing in the starting lineup.
“I’m thankful it popped out,” Wahlstrom said, “it was a lucky bounce but I’ll take it.”
Good first period
Yes, it wasn’t all bad from this game and the Islanders actually got off to a great start. At 5-on-5 the Islanders held a Corsi For over 61 percent and registered four high danger chances. The negative on this was that chances and a large share of the possession did not lead to pucks in the net.
“I liked our first period,” Trotz said. “I would’ve come out ahead in the first. I thought we deserved to. We played really well, [the period] had a lot of pace to it, had some really good looks.”
You can generate as many chances as you want, but if you can’t score or run into a solid goaltending performance (like the one Ilya Samsonov gave), it matters little.