Caps give up 3 unanswered in 4-1 Game 1 loss to Isles

Caps give up 3 unanswered in 4-1 Game 1 loss to Isles
April 15, 2015, 9:45 pm
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(USA TODAY Sports)

Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Wednesday night at Verizon Center:

How it happened: Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey snapped a 1-1 tie with second-period goals and the Islanders controlled play for most of the game in taking the series opener. Marcus Johansson scored the only goal for the Caps, who were held to just 25 shots. 

What it means: The Caps surrendered home-ice advantage with the defeat and now must win at least one game on Long Island to take the series. 

Goal breakdown: The Isles took a 1-0 lead 6:06 into the game when an errant Troy Brouwer pass kicked off the skate of Marcus Johansson and onto the stick of Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk quickly sent the puck up to left winger Josh Bailey, who fed Brock Nelson in full stride. Nelson whipped a snap shot that beat Washington goaltender Braden Holtby past his catching glove on the Isles’ third shot.

The Capitals responded in the closing minute of the opening period when left winger Brooks Laich stripped Halak of the puck behind the net and fed Johansson, whose wrister beat Halak past his blocker with 56 seconds remaining.

The Islanders made it 2-1 when Strome, playing in his first career playoff game, scored off a faceoff win by John Tavares, who beat Capitals rookie Michael Latta on an offensive draw. Strome’s quick release beat Holtby through a screen.

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The Isles made it 3-1 midway through the second period when Bailey jammed his own rebound off Holtby, off the post and over the goal line. Right winger Kyle Okposo fed Bailey with a nice pass through the crease.

The Isles put an exclamation point on their victory when Nelson scored into an empty net with 1:19 left.

Power-less: The Caps had two chances on the power play against the 26th-ranked penalty kill in the regular season, but failed to generate many scoring chances on either. Alex Ovechkin generated five shots in the first two periods but could not find the back of the net.

Tricky Nicky: Immediately after the Islanders took a 1-0 lead 6:06 into the game, Caps coach Barry Trotz reunited Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, but only for one shift before moving Evgeny Kuznetsov back between Ovechkin and Joel Ward. Trotz went back to Backstrom on the top line in the third period.

Isles in Annapolis: Capitals general manager Garth Snow said before the game that the Isles had trouble finding large blocks of hotel rooms in D.C. because of the cherry blossom festival and decided to stay in Annapolis and use the Naval Academy’s hockey rink for practices. 

Scratch sheet: As expected, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov were the Caps scratches. Tyler Kennedy, who has 76 games of playoff experience, was a notable healthy scratch for the Isles.  

Grabo ‘very close’: Gary Greenstin, the agent for Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski, said the former Capital is “very close” to returning to the Islanders’ lineup. Grabovski had nine goals and 10 assists in 51 games before suffering a concussion on Feb. 19. He has been skating with the team and is expected to be made available during this series.

Look ahead: The Capitals have scheduled an 11:30 a.m. practice on Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. They will travel to Long Island following Friday night’s home game and will practice at Nassau Coliseum at 1:30 on Saturday in preparation for Game 3 on Saturday at noon.