Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals head to Long Island for the first time this season to face the New York Islanders on Thursday night. After two games against the New Jersey Devils in Trenton over the weekend, the Capitals will head right back to face the Islanders on Tuesday.
The Capitals have taken all three games against the Islanders this season, most recently a 3-1 win on March 15. Action from NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum can be seen beginning at 7 PM ET on NBC Sports Washington both Thursday and Tuesday.
The Capitals continue a five-game road trip through the New York metropolitan area after opening it with a 5-2 loss against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, where they led 2-0 in the first period. The Capitals had won their previous four road games and were 8-1-0 in their past nine before Tuesday’s loss. They are 10-4-2 away from Capital One Arena this season and have won five straight road games against the Islanders dating back to 2018.
The Capitals’ loss on Tuesday night snapped a three-game winning streak and a stretch where they won 11 of their last 13 (11-2-0) with both losses coming to the Rangers. They are 17-4-1 since February 15 (their .795 points percentage in that span is the best in the NHL). The Capitals enter Thursday’s big tilt two points ahead of the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the East Division with a game in hand on both teams, and they are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers for the league’s best record.
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 24 assists and 37 points, which is tied for 12th in the NHL, in 35 games this season. The 33-year-old has recorded one goal and three points during a three-game point streak. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the team with 18 goals and has recorded 30 points in 31 games. The 35-year-old snapped a three-game goal-scoring streak in Tuesday’s contest against the Rangers. He tallied three goals and four points during that streak and has a league-leading 11 goals and 13 points in his last 12 games.
The Capitals’ average of 3.40 goals-per-game only trails the Lightning (3.51) and Colorado Avalanche (3.47) this season. Their average of 2.91 goals-against per game is just above the league average of 2.89 but they have averaged 2.41 (seventh-fewest) since February 15. The Capitals’ 23.9% power-play efficiency is tied with the Panthers for eighth and their 81.3% penalty-killing rate ranks 10th. Their average of 27.8 shots-per-game leads only the Anaheim Ducks (27.1) and Arizona Coyotes (25.9) but their average of 28.7 shots-against per game is tied with the Rangers for 10th. The Capitals’ 48.9% faceoff-winning percentage is 21st.
The Capitals’ 49.32% Corsi-for percentage at five-on-five is 17th this season and their 51.24% expected goals-for percentage ranks 13th. Their 50.54% scoring chances-for percentage marks the league average. The Capitals’ 11.37% five-on-five shooting percentage is the highest in the NHL by 1.41% and their 1.032 PDO also leads the way. Their .9179 five-on-five save percentage is tied with the Rangers for 18th.
The Islanders open a season-long six-game homestand against the Capitals on Thursday night and will rotate games between Washington and the Philadelphia Flyers for the next four. They are coming home from a four-game road trip where they went 2-2-0, falling to the Penguins in each of their last two games including a 2-1 loss at PPG Paints Arena on Monday. The Islanders 13-1-2 at home and have the fewest home regulation losses in the NHL this season.
After a 3-4-2 start to the season, the Islanders have gone an NHL-best 19-6-2 (.741 points percentage) since February 1 to propel themselves just two points behind the Capitals for first place in the East Division, though the Capitals have a game in hand. They enter Thursday tied with the Penguins in points with both teams having played 36 games to date.
Center Mathew Barzal leads the Islanders with 28 points, including 10 goals, this season. The 23-year-old recorded a goal and three points in two games in the team’s series against the Penguins but has just one goal and six points in his last dozen games. Center Brock Nelson’s 12 goals this season are tied with forward Anders Lee, who will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on a torn ACL on March 17, but he has just three assists in his past seven. Defenseman Nick Leddy leads the Islanders with 24 assists and has four on a three-game assist streak.
The Islanders’ average of 2.31 goals-against per game trails just the Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights (both average 2.24) this season while their average of 2.89 goals-per-game is at the league average. Their 19.6% power play efficiency entered Wednesday tied with the Golden Knights for 20th while their 80.4% penalty-killing rate ranks 12th. The Islanders’ average of 29.3 shots-per-game is tied with the Flyers and Los Angeles Kings for 20th. Their 27.4 shots-against per game ranks fifth and 51.2% faceoff-winning percentage ranks ninth.
The Islanders’ 49.53% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage ranks 16th while their 53.53% expected goals-for percentage is fifth. Their 52.63% scoring chances-for percentage is good for eighth. The Islanders’ 9.22% shooting percentage ranks seventh and .9282 save percentage is sixth. Their 1.02 PDO ranks fourth.
Capitals — Ilya Samsonov, 24 (8-1-1, .908 save percentage, 2.39 goals-against average, one shutout), and Vitek Vanecek, 25 (14-6-3, .907 save percentage, 2.73 goals-against average, one shutout). Samsonov is 3-1-0 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.47 goals-against average in four career games against the Islanders, including a 21-save performance on March 16. Vanecek has gone 2-0-0 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average against them this season.
Islanders — Semyon Varlamov, 32 (14-7-3, .922 save percentage, 2.19 goals-against average, three shutouts), and Ilya Sorokin, 25 (8-3-1, .911 save percentage, 2.24 goals-against average, two shutouts. Varlamov is 4-9-1 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.96 goals-against average in 14 career games against the team that drafted him, including an .864 save percentage and a 3.76 goals-against average this season. Sorokin has yet to play a game against the Capitals in his career.
By Harrison Brown