On the day after the NHL trade deadline expires, most professional hockey players can breathe a sigh of relief. As Brooks Laich told us this morning, the guys who are still in Washington are here for a reason, whether they are needed now or later. The Caps showed their ever-growing resiliency again Thursday night. They surrendered a late lead to the Islanders, but kept their composure and squeaked past New York 2-1 in a shootout.
Braden Holtby and Evgeni Nabokov put on a very good show in goal. Over the first half of the hockey game neither of them was tested by a great number of shots, but there were more than a few quality chances in the last 30 minutes.
The Caps waited until the last minute of the opening period to open the scoring on Military Night inside Verizon Center.
Mike Green appears to have his timing back and is feeling the best he has in a long while health-wise.
It would be Green stepping in from his right-point position to pull the trigger for his 8th goal of the year, a defensemen league-leading seven of them at even-strength.
Green’s shot was partially interrupted by John Tavares and that prevented Nabokov from tracking it as well as he might have liked.
That proved to be the lone goal in the game for a long time. Two high-powered power-play units did not get a lot of practice.
The Islanders did not get much in the way of any odd-man rushes in the game and the Caps were frustrating them through the neutral zone. The Isles big line of Tavares, Brad Boyes and Matt Moulson wasn’t allowed to generate much.
Nabokov has always had the Caps' number and he did his best to keep his team in just a one-goal deficit.
New acquisition Martin Erat skated well in his Caps debut. You can tell he’s a very well-coached and responsible player, who plays with high-end speed and tempo.
He worked much of the game on a line with Mathieu Perreault and Joel Ward, but also got extended time with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer as the night went along and Brooks Laich was rested.
The Islanders were stymied by Holtby and the Caps defense for 55 minutes. Then they would tie the game with a goal from Kyle Okposo. Josh Bailey and Franz Nielsen set it up, the latter making a very fine one-touch pass that Okposo hammered past the sprawling Caps netminder.
Overtime would not settle this contest. A shootout was on the docket for the first time this season at Verizon Center.
Matt Hendricks did not convert a wrister to the blocker side of Nabokov. Franz Nielsen led off for the visitors and his attempted five-hole shot on Holtby was rejected.
In the second round, Alex Ovechkin made a sweet move to his backhand and then roofed a shot over the blocking glove of Nabokov to put the Caps in charge. Brad Boyes had Holtby beaten on his deke to the forehand but thankfully lost the puck.
In the last round, Mike Ribeiro had the opportunity to ice the game for Washington but Nabokov kept his team alive. John Tavares had the chance to extend the shootout but it would be Holtby stuffing the second-leading goal-scorer in the league to secure the win.
The Caps will visit Sunrise, Florida Saturday for a date with the Panthers. They will go there tied for 1st place in the Southeast division thanks to Montreal downing the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night at Bell Centre. Caps Central gets our Comcast SportsNet coverage started at 7 p.m on Saturday.