The New York Islanders are coming off a four-game series win against the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round. The Washington Capitals secured a top-four seed after their regular season and played in three round-robin games, winning only once against the Boston Bruins.
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While both teams get set for their second playoff series in the last six years, the two sides faced each other four times during the shortened 2019-20 season. Despite not playing each other in six months, both teams picked up a pair of wins in three high scoring games. Let’s take a look back at these four matchups and who had the edge.
October 4, 2019
The Islanders opened their season by hosting the Capitals. Wahington was coming off a 3-2 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, and earned their second victory of the season with young goaltender Ilya Samsonov between the pipes. Jakub Vrana opened the scoring on Semyon Varlamov, who was making his debut with New York against his former team.
Then just over two minutes later, Devon Toews tied the game at 1-1 with his first of there goals against the Capitals during the season series after his cross-ice feed deflected off Radko Gudas and into his own net. However, T.J. Oshie scored the game-winning goal in the second period to hand the Islanders their first loss of the season. New York dropped three of their first four games of the season before going on a run where they won 10 games in a row and earned at least one point in 17 straight.
December 31, 2019
In the final game of 2019 for both teams, they matched up on New Year’s Eve. Varlamov once again got the start with the Capitals’ number one net-minder, Braden Holtby, seeing the Islanders for the first time. In a wild game, the Islanders took an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Casey Cizikas and Brock Nelson. The Capitals responded 14 seconds after the second strike with a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Tom Wilson evened the score at 2-2 before the first period ended, and Kuznetsov gave Washington the lead 44 seconds into the second period.
The game then took another turn later in the second period when Cizikas split two defenders and fired a shot past Holtby to tie the game at 3-3. Then Tom Kuhnhackl, who was playing in only his 12th game of the season, scored the game-winner at 12:34 of the middle frame with a wrist shot. It was Kuhnhackl’s second-straight game with a goal and only his third career game-winning goal. Varlamov ended up making 18 saves in the third period, and New York earned the two points.
January 18, 2020
In their third meeting of the season, these two teams played a high scoring game at the Nassau Coliseum. Alexander Ovechkin opened the scoring, but the Islanders responded with four goals to take a 4-1 lead. While it seemed like the Islanders had all the momentum after a Toews’ goal made it 4-1, he taunted the Capitals with Kuznetsov’s unique bird celebration. The Capitals did not seem to forget and played arguably their best period of the season in the third.
They ended up getting the last laugh as they scored five third-period goals with Vrana scoring the game-winner at 17:30. Ovechkin also completed a hat trick with an empty-net goal as Samsonov earned the win after replacing Holtby for the start of the third period.
February 10, 2020
The Islanders finished the season series in Wahington and were involved in another high-scoring affair. Similar to how Anthony Beauvillier started Game 4 against the Panthers, the young forward scored the first two goals of the game to give the Islanders an early advantage. Later in the period, John Carlson and Toews traded goals in a four-goal first period, as Toews had a much calmer celebration in front of the Capitals fans.
The scoring continued in the second period with Leo Komarov scoring his second goal of the season on a slap shot, and Jordan Eberle added another to make it 5-1, which knocked Samsonov out of the game. The Capitals scored twice later in the game, but Thomas Greiss won his first game of the season against Washington. The game also featured a memorable fight between Garnet Hathaway and Ross Johnston.
With each team winning the games on the road, that will not be as much of a factor with the teams playing in the bubble in Toronto. The Capitals will hope to have Carlson available for the series as the Islanders hope to have Johnny Boychuk back after his injury in Game 1.
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The Capitals took the last playoff series against these two teams in 2015, winning in seven games, but the Islanders have won a pair of playoff series since and are hoping to get revenge with Barry Trotz now coaching the Islanders against his former team.