Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals fell to the New York Islanders by a score of 5-1 at UBS Arena on Thursday night. They remain in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference as they are a point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Each team finishes the regular season on Friday. Goaltender Vitek Vanecek made 21 saves in the loss.
With a win in any fashion at the New York Rangers (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington in-market, ESPN+ out-of-market) and a Penguins loss (vs. Columbus Blue Jackets) in regulation on Friday, the Capitals will face the Rangers in the first-round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If they lose in any fashion and the Penguins earn at least a point on Friday, they will draw the Florida Panthers. The Capitals will start the series on the road under either scenario.
Capitals’ Lines at Islanders
The Capitals shook up their top-six forward group while left-wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby drew in for center Connor McMichael after their 4-1 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday.
Scratched: McMichael, LHD Matt Irwin, LHD Michal Kempny
Injured: LW Alex Ovechkin (upper-body, missed second game, out day-to-day); LW Carl Hagelin (eye, 25th, indefinite)
Center Brock Nelson hammered a shot through the five-hole of Vanecek after center Mathew Barzal faked a pass, took a spin in the corner, and fed him cross-ice to open the scoring for the Islanders on the man advantage 10:48 in.
Right-wing Anders Lee redirected Barzal’s pass from the top past the right pad of Vanecek in front of the goal on a four-on-three power play to extend the lead to 2-0 with 4:26 left.
The Capitals led 7-6 in shots, had three giveaways while the Islanders tallied 10, and did not score on their lone power play in the opening period.
The Islanders led 6-3 in blocked shots, won 75% of the draws, and struck on both of their power plays in the first.
Each team tallied nine hits and two takeaways through one.
The Capitals led 20-16 in shots (including 13-10 in the second), 19-12 in hits, 4-3 in takeaways, recorded nine giveaways while the Islanders tallied 14, and did not score on their first power play through two.
The Islanders led 10-6 in blocked shots, scored on half of their four man advantage opportunities, and won 68% of the faceoffs in the first 40 minutes.
Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau zipped past Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom after he could not keep a pass in the offensive zone, fought off defenseman John Carlson, and roofed one on Vanecek to make it 3-0 after a four-minute power-play for Washington expired 3:44 into the period.
Right-wing Kyle Palmieri one-timed a shot over Vanecek’s arm from the right dot after left-wing Josh Bailey fed him from the right half-wall to extend the lead to four 2:39 later.
Bailey dangled past left-wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, deked, and backhanded one under the crossbar after Barzal ripped off Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen at the goal-line to make it a five-spot for the Islanders with 6:23 to go.
Jonsson-Fjallby got the puck at the blueline, skated in closer, and ripped a shot past the glove of goaltender Semyon Varlamov with defenseman Andy Greene screening his netminder with 41.4 seconds left to put the Capitals on the board. Capitals’ rookies have accounted for 32 goals this season, tied for the fifth-most in the NHL.
The Capitals led 27-26 in shots, 22-13 in hits, 5-4 in takeaways, recorded 14 giveaways while the Islanders tallied 16, and did not score on six power plays.
The Islanders led 10-7 in third-period shots, 11-9 in blocked shots, scored on three of their five man advantage opportunities, and won 66% of the faceoffs.
By Harrison Brown