In his first game with the Capitals, newly-acquired forward Jason Arnott waited until the last minute to make his first impression. Arnott earned the primary assist on Brooks Laich’s game-tying goal with :48 seconds remaining in the third and Alex Ovechkin won it with a stunning overtime goal to give the Capitals a thrilling 2-1 win over the Islanders at Verizon Center Tuesday night.
All eyes were on Arnott, Marco Sturm, Dennis Wideman and Arnott, the three new Caps’ acquisitions who made their debuts, and each made a positive impact on the game. Aside from Arnott’s assist, Wideman led the team in ice time (26:44) and Sturm helped the top line establish a cycle.
“[Arnott] is known for scoring goals as a center rather than a passer,” Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But I thought he made two or three really, really good plays passing the puck. I thought Dennis Wideman played with a lot of poise. He got shots through from which our defense hasn’t been able to get shots through. [Sturm] was nervous. Anyone who plays with Nicky [Backstrom] and Alex [Ovechkin] tends to overplay.”
The Capitals came storming out the gates, outshooting the Islanders 10-1 over the first 7:04 of the game. Arnott and Sturm both had great chances to put their new team ahead but were both denied point-blank by Nathan Lawson, the latest sub-.900 save percentage goalie to confound the Capitals who racked up 42 shots on the night.
It seemed only a matter of time until the Islanders woke up, or perhaps until the Capitals went back to sleep.
Sure enough, the home team’s momentum waned and the Islanders started to pile up odd-man rushes and dangerous chances. Matt Moulson, the most dynamic offensive player so far this season for either team, put the Islanders ahead 1-0 when he buried a two-on-one chance. The play started on a neutral zone turnover by John Carlson, who had several miscues on the evening and posted a minus rating for the third straight game.
The Caps had a chance in the third to even the score when the Islanders were whistled for too many men on the cce. But 1:40 into the power play the Islanders had spent more time in Washington’s end than the other way around, and the boos rained down from the rafters.
Perhaps it didn’t make for the most welcoming environment for the new acquisitions, but this fan base had watched the Capitals score one goal in its last 11-plus periods on home ice.
Just when it looked like the Capitals were going to slink away with a third shutout loss in four home games, Laich saved the night. With Michal Neuvirth pulled for the extra attacker, Arnott found himself with the puck in the corner and hit Laich in front of the net who buried it and prompted a jubilant celebration amongst all wearing red at Verizon Center.
“It’s important to get the idea that teams can’t come into this building and win so easily,” Boudreau said. “It was very similar to the game on the Island [on Saturday] reversed. We had nine shots [early on] and two breakaways and when we don’t score I’m going ‘Uh oh’.”
Then just 1:55 into overtime, Ovechkin made everyone else on the ice look like children with perhaps his best move all season. He skated through every Islander on the ice from his own end, streaked in from Lawson’s left and uncorked a backhander over the shoulder to earn the Capitals an unlikely two points.
“The missed the puck in our zone and I had full speed so it was kind of a pretty goal,” Ovechkin said. “I’ll take it.”