Ryan Strome scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period while Thomas Greiss made 28 saves as the New York Islanders downed the Washington Capitals 3-2 at Barclays Center on Tuesday night. The victory improved the Islanders point streak to seven games (6-0-1) and improved the team’s record under Doug Weight to 5-0-1.
“I think we’re in the [playoff] conversation now,” interim coach Doug Weight said. “We have a long way to go, but the guys believe and with each win, their confidence in each other grows. We expect to win before the puck is dropped.”
“There’s a lot of work ahead but it felt good to get those six games [the home stand] on the right side of it,” Strome said. “We’re making plays, we’re playing confident and when that leaks through your group, good things are going to happen.”
The Capitals controlled the tempo of the game in the opening 10 minutes and had control of the puck for much of that time. They cashed in and took a 1-0 lead at 4:41 when Evgeny Kuznetsov sped through the Isles’ zone untouched and snapped the puck past Greiss to put the road team ahead.
The Islanders managed to improve their play in the second half of the period and actually outshot Washington 11-9 in the first 20 minutes. The Isles best scoring chances came on a power play late in the period where the team showed good movement without the puck and had a lot of zone time. Still, they were unable to beat Philipp Grubauer and trailed by a goal after the first period ended.
The Isles power play clicked early in the second period. With Matt Niskanen off for interference, Alan Quine scored his fifth goal of the season when he deflected home a shot by Andrew Ladd at 2:41. That evened the score at 1-1.
The Islanders had the better of the play in the middle stanza, outshooting Washington 11-5. The Isles defense did a good job of slowing down the potent Caps’ offense and prevented them from entering the offensive zone with speed.
The third period started off slowly with both teams playing a cautious style designed to limit mistakes. But the Islanders pulled ahead at 6:31 on the prettiest goal of the night. Rookie Anthony Beauvillier created a turnover with an aggressive forecheck then took a hit to make a pass to Brock Nelson. Nelson made a pinpoint pass to Strome who beat Grubauer to give the Isles a 2-1 lead.
“It was a great play by Beau [Beauvillier], he made a good forecheck, that’s the way he plays” Strome said. “Then Brock made a great pass. It feels good to bang one in and to get a reward for our hard work.”
The Capitals made their push in the third period, outshooting the Islanders 16-7, but the New York defense kept almost all the shots to the outside and did not allow many rebounds or quality chances. Greiss came up big and kept the Isles in the lead.
Johnny Boychuk added an empty-net goal with 1:08 left in the game to increase the Isles lead to 3-1. Casey Cizikas earned an assist on the goal, giving him 100 points for his NHL career.
Alex Ovechkin scored in the final minute to make the score 3-2, but the Capitals could get no closer and the Isles had another victory.
The Islanders continue to play good hockey and they continue to beat quality opponents. The Isles finished their six-game home stand with a 5-0-1 mark.
“We just continue to play together,” Beauvillier said. “We just came together and played hard every night. We compete, we have fun at the rink and we make plays that make a difference at the end of the game.”
The Islanders return to action Friday night when they travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings.
Official attendance was 11,240.
The Islanders remained without defensemen Travis Hamonic and Thomas Hickey who both remain out with injuries. Cal Clutterbuck was also unavailable while Stephen Gionta was a healthy scratch.
Forward Jason Chimera appeared in his 999th career NHL game.
The Islanders won the season series from the Capitals 3-2-0.