Michal Neuvirth made 22 saves and the Washington Capitals scored three goals in the game’s final five minutes on Tuesday night to win their game with the New York Islanders 3-2 inside Verizon Center. Troy Brouwer scored two goals in three minutes to tie the game late in regulation before Alex Ovechkin won it as the Capitals moved into a playoff position for the first time in what seems like forever. What was so odd about this game was that it was almost a carbon copy of Washington’s first game after the deadline last year, also against the Isles. The Caps trailed late before tying it and then getting a winning goal from their Captain.
The game got off to a rather stagnant start, with neither team getting sustained pressure and a bunch of whistles in the first three minutes of the game. That early lack of action did not last long, however, as Josh Bailey danced through the Washington defense and backhanded one past Michal Neuvirth for a 1-0 lead. Soon after however the Capitals were awarded a power play, though they could not get through Evgeni Nabokov. Another man advantage less than two minutes later was similarly fruitless, and the boo-birds began to rain down from the Verizon Center faithful.
Washington started to dictate the pace of play after the 13 minute mark of the period, getting scoring chances and pushing the pace offensively. Dmitry Orlov had a great chance in front off a pass from behind the goal, but Nabokov was there; Jay Beagle also missed a wide open cage from just out in front. By the end of the frame, the Caps were out-shooting their opponents 13-3, but were still behind 1-0.
The second period started much like the first one ended, with the Islanders on their heels and the Caps dictating the pace of play. They could not convert on any of their chances, though, and the Islanders got their first power play of the game with 6:16 gone in the period as Matt Hendricks was sent off. The Caps killed off the first minute and 45 seconds of the minor before a penalty was called on New York, giving Washington a shortened power play.
After that power play, however, the Islanders began to tilt the ice in their favor once more, and the Caps relied on Neuvirth to keep them within striking distance. It got worse with seven minutes remaining in the period when Troy Brouwer was called for delay of game. But the home team killed it well and got another shortened power play, using it to set up a dominating wave of chances that they simply could not convert. The period closed with that theme, as New York still led 1-0 after 40.
In the critical third period, Washington got off to a terrible start, allowing a goal only 2:16 in to the period off the stick of Matt Moulson via a deflection in front. Now down two and desperate to get some offensive momentum, the Capitals began to throw everything they could at Nabokov, but the Russian stood tall against the onslaught. With less than ten minutes remaining, the Caps still had nothing against the Russian goalie.
Inside four minutes remaining, however, the Caps finally got their first goal when Troy Brouwer knocked one in in front with three and a half minutes left in regulation. Feeding off the energy of their goal, Washington began a final late push, pulling Michal Neuvirth and throwing all of their men forward in a desperate attempt to equalize. It worked, as Brooks Laich’s shot from the top of the circle was tipped by Troy Brouwer with 25.5 seconds left. That set the stage for Alex Ovechkin to be the hero in overtime, blasting a shot past Nabokov for the 3-2 win and an enormous win.
This was just so electrifying. There the Capitals were, ready to flop spectacularly as they started a critical five game homestand. They were 210 seconds from doing it, then they were 25 seconds from doing it. And then everything changed instantly. Verizon Center was alive, and the Caps got some big performances from their big guns. How about that?
Michal Neuvirth was solid, and had no chance on either goal. He’s been good since he returned to the ice after a long dry spell, and he also made several very nice stops to keep the game within striking distance for his teammates. Roll him, Dale. Seriously, how can you argue with it at this point.
Alex Ovechkin came up huge in overtime for the first time in a while this evening, producing a carbon copy of a result that emulated Washington’s first game after the deadline last year. In that contest, they tied it in the last minute and got a winner from their captain. HUGE.
The Caps don’t play again until Friday, but now, there is reason to believe.
Harry Hawkings is a college student who covers the Caps for RtR. Follow him on Twitter here.