Nicklas Backstrom picked a great time for his first goal on the season.
On a power play with less than four minutes to go in a tied game, Alex Ovechkin took a monstrous slap shot in front of the net. The shot found Backstrom’s stick for the tip-in, and the Caps took the lead for the first time Wednesday night.
A few minutes later the clock ran out and the Washington Capitals defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 at the Verizon Center.
Backstrom was lined up in perfect positioning in front of the net for the tip in, giving the Caps their third win this homestand, and their fourth win on the season.
“I was just standing in front of the net there and [Ovechkin] was shooting at my feet,” Backstrom said. “He hit my foot. It was kind of lucky he didn’t hit it too hard; otherwise I probably couldn’t walk tomorrow. It was a good one.”
Michal Neuvirth got his fourth straight start, and played the entire game, making him the first goalie to do that since 2005-2006. And he had arguably his best game so far, coming up big several times in the third period.
The Islanders have outshot opponents 35-13 in the third period so far this season, and that trend continued tonight. They outshout Washington 12-6 in the third, but they were no match for Neuvirth.
With six minutes to go and the game still tied, Islanders Matt Moulson had a breakaway and a one-on-one opportunity against Neuvirth. The Caps goalie dropped to his knees for the pad save to keep that Caps in the game.
“I was just trying to stay patient,” Neuvirth said. “That was a big save for us.”
The Islanders jumped out to an early lead scoring three minutes into the game, when Nino Niederreiter was left open in front of the net.
The Caps didn’t respond until the end of the second period, when Ovechkin took a wristshot from the corner that slid in front of the Islanders goalie and into the net, tying the game 1-1.
While the Caps may have been late to score, they continued to be perfect on the power play kill. The Islanders were given three man-up opportunities and were shut-down by the Caps penalty-killing unit each time.
The Islanders were 5-13 on the power play going into tonight’s game, so the Caps ability to shut them down was definitely a key to their success.
Much like last year’s Caps though, questions in goal still remain. While Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said that when Semyon Varlamov is ready he’ll get the start, he was quick to point out that Neuvirth was making a case for himself too.
“[Varlamov] is ready, but Neuvirth is making a name for himself. He’s gotten better in every game and tonight was his best game. So, we’ll see – we know Varlamov is a very good goalie too. It will never be a controversy. We’re lucky and we’re blessed with two good young goalies.”