NHL Game Recap: Despite Strong Effort, Islanders Fall to Capitals 2-1 in OT

Daniel Friedman@DFriedmanNHLCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2011

Tonight, the New York Islanders have added another city to their "places we hate to visit" list: Washington, D.C.

Nothing against the nation's capital, but the Isles simply cannot win there. It's become their "Philadelphia II."

New York suffered yet another heartbreaking loss, falling to Alex Ovechkin (literally) and the Washington Capitals in overtime, by a final score of 2-1.

To paint the picture for you, the Isles had been playing so well in this game, they inspired ESPN SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross to announce the following on twitter:

"I think the Islanders have legit young talent and are on the rise. They will be able to draft a good young D in June. I like their future."

I'm not sure who else observed the same thing during the game, but I thought the Isles' style of play last night strongly resembled the infamous "neutral zone trap" that the New Jersey Devils have used for over a decade.

While I of course wasn't on their bench or in the locker room last night, but it was clear to me that whatever Islanders head coach Jack Capuano was telling his players last night, they were buying into it, and it was working.

Some might say that the Isles blew this one, but I think this loss was a bit of a different animal. To say that the Islanders broke down is not really true, because the fact is, there was a minute to go, the Caps had pulled their goaltender and were in desperation mode.

A team like Washington is going to score in those types of situations, nine out of ten times.

Now you might say something like, "very nice Friedman, but that doesn't cut it! If the Isles won that key faceoff in their own zone, the game would likely have ended shortly thereafter!"

Well, my answer to that is, there are still a couple of issues with that argument.

First, even if New York cleared the zone, you don't know what would have transpired during the remainder of the period. Second, that's hockey- you don't win every single faceoff, and sometimes, that comes back to haunt you.

The Isles may have lost their lead, but they certainly didn't hand it over to the Capitals.

In overtime, the Isles simply could not contain Alex Ovechkin, and as soon as he took off, I knew it was going in. Ovie hasn't had his best season, but you can still tell when he's about to score. He hasn't lost a step.

I actually had a chance to hear portions of the Capitals' broadcast of tonight's game, and I was simply shocked with how much praise their play-by-play and color commentators were giving New York. They constantly referred to the Isles' as a good, young team in the future.

It's even more impressive when you contrast it with Howie "Not That I Particularly Care" Rose, though it was nice to see Howie being vocal about how Michael Grabner was snubbed, not being named one of the NHL's three stars of February (or Febru-any, if you're a Subway fan. That commercial has got to go, the jingle is quite annoying.)

Despite the loss, New York did have a strong game, the major bright spot being the power play. Every pass was tape-to-tape, and you could tell that the young Isles were determined to play a more aggressive style than we've seen from them in a long time.

On a positive note, the improbable success story of Matt Moulson continues, as he took a gorgeous feed from John Tavares, netting a power play marker, his 28th goal of the season. It is more than likely he'll finish with at least 30 tallies, and doing so for the second consecutive year.

I was really impressed with John Tavares, particularly the way he handled the puck with authority, making a few dazzling moves, and even going to the net and "taking the pain," so to speak, in the process. During one instance of the game, Tavares was pushed down, head-first into the goal post by a Washington player, while he was trying to score a goal.

Justin DiBenedetto, who was called up in Rob Schremp's stead, had a pretty solid game for New York. I thought he played his game, and got under the skin of some of the Caps players, particularly former Islander John Erskine, who eventually just shoved "DiBo" into the boards for a lazy penalty, out of sheer frustration.

Michael Grabner has to be incredibly puzzled of late, as he has not score in his last seven games, despite some unbelievable scoring opportunities, many of which have resulted in absolute larceny by the opposing goaltender.

The way I saw it, Travis Hamonic was the best defenseman on the team tonight, shutting down Ovechkin until the very end, and doing everything you could possibly ask from a rookie defenseman going up against a high-powered offense like Washington's. I thought the way he played tonight shows exactly why the Isles and their fans should be very excited about what this kid brings to the table, and how much better he can get in the future.

With the Islanders resting Al Montoya, Nathan Lawson did a great job in net, making several big stops throughout the entire game. You really cannot fault Nathan for the loss.

Despite all the frustration in Islander Country, the league is starting to take notice. The Isles aren't pushovers anymore. They're giving it their all, whether they ultimately finish this season in eight place or eight-hundredth, and as Mr. Buccigross said, the future is indeed very bright.


Comments are welcome.


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