Brock Nelson scored the go-ahead goal on a second-period breakaway 15 seconds after Alex Ovechkin tied it, and the New York Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Friday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.
Barry Trotz’s Islanders played his trademark structured, suffocating style against the team he coached to the Stanley Cup in 2018 and was unwilling to give him a raise. Trotz’s fingerprints were all over this game, from New York responding after allowing the game’s first goal to hemming the Capitals in their own zone late in the third period, leading to an insurance goal.
Tensions calmed between the teams after a bevy of penalties in Game 1, but there’s no love lost between the Metropolitan Division rivals, especially since it became Trotz against former assistant-turned Capitals coach Todd Reirden.
The Capitals started fast, as Ovechkin scored 56 seconds in. It was his first point in five games since the NHL resumed.
Out to avenge Islanders captain Anders Lee’s Game 1 hit that injured centre Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals came with the physicality in the first period. Tom Wilson was credited with eight of their 17 hits.
A lack of discipline hurt Washington early in the second when New York’s Nick Leddy tied it on a power play. The Capitals penalty kill was 14-for-14 to that point.
The Islanders went up 2-1 after Scott Mayfield forced a turnover and fed Matt Martin in front. Ovechkin scored his second to tie it a minute and a half later, before another Capitals mistake wound up in their net.
Jakub Vrana coughed up the puck at the offensive blue line, springing Nelson for his breakaway goal the shift after Ovechkin tied it. Goaltender Braden Holtby was again hung out to dry by Washington teammates, and Vrana was benched for the final 13 minutes of the period.
It looked as if Ovechkin had his second career playoff hat trick when he got the puck with half an empty net on a power play in the third period. He hit the side of the net.
New York dominated on a shift late in the third, which ended with a goal by Cal Clutterbuck to make it 4-2. Lee sealed it with an empty-netter.
NOTES: Islanders D Johnny Boychuk missed his fifth consecutive game with an undisclosed injury. … Backstrom was out after going into concussion protocol. … Ovechkin scored his 66th and 67th career playoff goals to move into sole possession of 20th on the NHL’s all-time list. … Eller returned after missing the last three games for the birth of his son.
Game 3 is Sunday at noon.