The New York Islanders fell to the visiting Washington Capitals 4-2 at Barclays Center Tuesday night. Matt Niskianen scored twice in the third period to break a 2-2 tie. This is the second straight game the Islanders lost after being all even after 40 minutes.
The script was too familiar to Isles fans. Poor defensive zone coverage and two power play goals allowed were the difference in the game. At least the Islanders had some quality chances to tie the game in the third period and remained competitive until the final two minutes of the game.
Still, despite some impressive moments, the Isles overall effort was not consistent enough to defeat a deep team like the Capitals.
Although Washington had the better of the play early, the Islanders scored first when Cal Clutterbuck’s long stretch pass set up Brock Nelson for a wrist shot. Holtby misjudged the shot which deflected off a defenseman’s stick and went in just under the crossbar at 9:28 to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
The goal gave the Islanders momentum and they controlled the play for the final five minutes of the period despite giving up too many quality chances early on. They went into the dressing room leading 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Center Casey Cizikas was injured early in the period when a skate blade cut his hand. He went to the locker room for repairs and was able to return to action before the period ended.
The pace slowed in the second period although the two teams still had their share of scoring chances. The Caps tied the game at 1-1 when Lars Eller made a pinpoint centering pass that was deflected home by Brett Connolly who was in front of the net.
The Caps took a 2-1 lead when Evgeny Kuznetsov carried the puck undisturbed behind the Isles goal and found Jakub Vrana in the slot. Justin Williams deflected home Vrana’s shot past Halak on the power play to give Washington its first lead of the game at 7:37.
The Islanders evened the score at 10:41 when Nikolay Kulemin deflected Nick Leddy’s shot from the point past Holtby. Kulemin was well situated in front of the Washington goal to get the deflection.
An Islanders defensive breakdown helped the Capitals take a 3-2 lead just 1:34 into the final period. Three Isles defensemen were trapped behind the goal line when the puck came back to Matt Niskanen all alone at the point. With plenty of room, the defenseman skated to the top of the circle and blasted the puck past Halak.
The Islanders had several good chances in the second half of the third period, but Holtby came up big and made several big saves most notably on Tavares and Clutterbuck.
The Capitals clinched the win at 18:02 when Niskanen scored his second goal of the game and of the season on the power play. Travis Hamonic took a foolish penalty in the final minutes to set up the power-play chance for Washington.
This is the kind of game the Islanders needed to win to make up ground in the tough Metropolitan Division. Losing two straight puts them back below the .500 mark for the season and puts them 12 points back in the race for the final playoff spot.
The Islanders schedule does not get any easier. They have a day off Wednesday before hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
NYI – Brock Nelson (7) assisted by Cal Clutterbuck and Dennis Seidenberg
WSH – Brett Connolly (3) assisted by Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana
WSH – Justin Williams PP (6) assisted by Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov
NYI – Nikolay Kulemin (3) assisted by Nick Leddy and Casey Cizikas
WSH – Niskanen (1) assisted by Dmitry Orlov and Marcus Johansson
WSH – Niskanen (2) Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson
THW Three Stars
First: Matt Niskanen (2 goals, GWG)
Second: Jakub Vrana (2 assists)
Third:Evgeny Kuznetsov (2 assists)
Chicago Blackhawks vs New York Islanders
Barclays Center — 7:00 PM EST on Thursday, December 15, 2016
Broadcast Channels: MSG-plus and CSN-Chicago
2o16-17 Season Series: First meeting of season
Long time hockey writer and author of the new book, “Ice Wars: The Complete History of New York’s Greatest Modern Sports Rivalry.” It tells the story behind every game between the Rangers and Islanders dating back to 1972 and features profiles of more than 80 players from both teams and quotes from more than 50 exclusive interviews from players, coaches and broadcasters from both teams.