The New York Islanders had plenty of doubters come into the 2015 NHL Playoffs — but they’ve made their presence known and they won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
The Islanders upset the Capitals in the opening contest of the best-of-seven first round showdown by the score of 4-1. Getting the early advantage on the scoreboard was the key to victory for New York and Washington was never really able to get into a groove.
Brock Nelson gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead just six minutes into the action of the first period. Marcus Johansson tied things at one-a-piece with under a minute to go in the opening frame, but it was all Islanders from there.
Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey contributed the second period scores and Brock Nelson knocked in an empty-netter to put the ultimate nail in the coffin for a game that the Islanders had to win to have any momentum left throughout the series.
John Tavares, New York’s best individual player, found himself more in the role of an assistant and organizer instead of a scorer. Thankfully, it turned out in the Islanders’ favor. Kyle Okposo and Johnny Boychuk also found themselves on the giving end of the stick.
But it was Washington’s game to lose.
Opening up at home is what you think would be the way to go but it didn’t work for Alex Ovechkin & Co. for one major reason — there was no heart.
As soon as the Islanders took a 2-1 lead the Caps seemed all but excited. They were deflated and it really showed in their latter play of the third period.
The Capitals seriously struggled to keep control of the puck and turned it over eleven times to just five times by the opposing Islanders. Washington was able to be the better team in face-offs, winning that bout 39-23, but a lack of offensive efficiency doomed them throughout the game.
Despite more than twenty minutes on the ice, Alex Ovechkin was an invisible man in his own stadium. The former top draft pick seemed to shy away from the spotlight when it matters most and it cost him and his team dearly.
But that’s not the worst part for the Capitals.
This will be the Islanders last season before moving the team to Brooklyn from here on out. Knowing that, the fans back in New York are not going to be very friendly to visiting Washington. Now that they find themselves in an 0-1 series hole, a road win for the Caps is a must win.
But even scarier is that they may need more than one road victory to stay alive.
The kind of confidence that New York played with was unreal and should worry the Capitals immensely.
If Washington expects to hang around in this series, the change has to come soon or it will be too little too late once again for a team that has nothing but high expectations.