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Posted at 12:04 AM ET, 01/21/2011

Caps score early, shut Islanders down to win, 2-1

By Katie Carrera

This wasn't a win claimed by daring an opponent to an offensive track meet and out-running them, but a game in which the Capitals were able to do the things they've been aiming to accomplish in recent weeks: get off to a good start, capitalize on offensive chances when presented with them and shut down the other team. Washington did all of those things to earn a 2-1 victory over the Islanders and crack the 60-point plateau this season.

"I was really, really excited about the way we held the fort," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We got the 2-0 lead and even though they scored one goal after that, we didn't give a lot up and when we did [Braden] Holtby made a great save or two."

The option of holding the fort and focusing on shutting down the Islanders came from the Capitals gaining an early lead with a goal by Jason Chimera, who played on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, less than four minutes into the contest. Backstrom started the play by bringing the puck up through the neutral zone and dropping it off for Ovechkin, who sent a pass to the front of the net where Chimera was waiting to redirect it past Rick DiPietro.

Playing with the lead from the get-go was a welcome change for the Capitals -- it was just the second time in nine games in January in which they scored first.

"It's much easier I think when you don't have to do comebacks all the time," Backstrom said. "We think we started off pretty good, all the guys were just flying out there. It's good; that's what we need and that's what reminded me of last year too. We came out hard every game and that's what we have to do if we're going to win."

Ovechkin and Backstrom combined for the second goal by going to the net once again. This time Ovechkin led the rush into the offensive zone when he drove to the crease for a scoring chance and Backstrom followed up to bat the rebound over the goal line.

It was the first time since Nov. 26 that Ovechkin and Backstrom recorded multiple points in the same game and those two goals were all the Capitals needed, combined with going 6 for 6 on the penalty kill and 24 saves from rookie Braden Holtby, who claimed his third NHL win.

The Islanders' power play had its best opportunities with the man advantage on their first try. They collapsed down below the faceoff circles and shot any time they had an open look, but after that initial chance the Capitals grew stingier and the shooting lanes weren't always there. Washington allowed the Islanders four shots combined on four power plays between the second and third periods.

"That's what happens, look at our power play," Boudreau said. "Most nights when we get five or six our first one we almost score, we don't and it deteriorates as time goes on because offensive players get frustrated."

Said Holtby: "I forgot how many power plays they had, I didn't think they had that many scoring opportunities. I think we did a great job of not letting them see anything from up top and that's how you're usually successful on power plays. Every time they'd go to shoot they'd see a guy in front of them and try to pass."

--For those who might have missed it tonight, there is unfortunate news from the Avalanche that former Capital Tomas Fleischmann will miss the rest of the season after it was discovered that he has one blood clot in each lung. You can check out the full story from the Denver Post here.

By Katie Carrera  | January 21, 2011; 12:04 AM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby, Bruce Boudreau, Jason Chimera, New York Islanders, Nicklas Backstrom  
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Next: Braden Holtby bounces back against Islanders

Comments

A good ugly win on the road, and I don’t care who we played. The pk came up huge, as did Holtby, and great to see Backstrom chop through the ice. Chimera was a nice addition to the line, though he would’ve been better had he put Martin in his place…..what a great time to show some attitude!! There are lots of good things to write about, not the least of which is seeing the Caps record move to 6-2-1 when both #4 and 17 are in the lineup.

Who can deny the positive influence DJK had on the game? Everyone saw how both goals we scored happened the shift right after DJK and linemates had impressive shifts with extended zone time, some good cycling and grinding going on. I know he had at least one heavy hit, and it was comforting to know he was on the bench lest Konopka or Gilles started running around; they didn’t even bother to try. All of that in just three and a half minutes of play, but whatever, at least he was in.

I’m sure Erskine’s presence was a deterrent as well, but it sounds like he’s ailing and the puck he took can’t help. I loved Locker pointing out how Bailey bailed out on the icing when he knew #4 was coming. Backstrom darn-near scored on a wrap around shortly after the ensuing faceoff, and that’s the kind of dividends the ability to intimidate pays. If Erskine misses a game or two, I sure hope he beats Poti back into the lineup because if he doesn’t….well, we know.

Most definitely, the highlight of the game occurred late in the first period when the camera scanned the bench and Erskine and DJK were sitting side-by-side!! I mean, can you believe they actually showed them together, on tv? I guess the only way it could’ve been better was if they both were in the penalty box. Well, as you can imagine, I immediately paused it. Then I rewound it and paused it again. And I did it again, and again. Who knows if or when we’ll experience such a glorious moment again, so you know I milked it for all it was worth.

SAME LINEUP IN TORONTO!!

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 21, 2011 12:11 AM | Report abuse

...so you know I milked it for all it was worth.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 21, 2011 12:11 AM

you sir - do not paint a very pretty picture :)

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | January 21, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

The Sens won all the fights tonight but still got a major league beat-down where it actually matters, 6-2.

I'm beginning to notice a theme this season, all these teams the Caps lose to or barely beat take a beat-down like that shortly after.

Posted by: joek443 | January 21, 2011 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Nice top line last night. Always exciting to see the Ovi/Backstrom passing duo. Adding in speedy, fierce Chimera, the Islander defense's challenges were multiplied.

Ovi not scoring goals? Well, that bank shot off Chimera's stick certainly comes close. And his clean out of the net for Backstrom traveling in his wake also had characteristics beyond the typical assist.

Interestingly, MSG announcers said that Ovi's flubbed "pass" from the back of the net to waiting Islanders was actually an attempt to bounce the puck towards the net. Ovi saw that wall of defenders as a potential carom shot. Isn't that the Ovi we know and love?

One more MSG announcers comment. After Ovi had been decked for the umpteenth time, they said the crowd was hushing after each knockdown, waiting for a penalty call. The "problem" is that Ovi is so quickly back up and in the middle of the play, the whacks don't look like infractions.

Posted by: OccasionalCritic | January 21, 2011 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Well, it's a win, but over the mostly hapless Isles. I was not happy that the Caps cannot maintain a presence in the other team's zone, whereas teams lately have been setting up camp in the Caps zone. I just don't see a team that allows the Isles to cycle at will going far in the playoffs. I think some of the goaltender injuries are due to having to make so many 10 bell saves.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS2 | January 21, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

Imagine that, the team actually played well defensively in front of Holtby last night and my boy showed everyone what he can do!! Where are all those people who were whining and grumbling about him being in net yesterday afternoon????

Posted by: PhilR | January 21, 2011 7:38 AM | Report abuse

A full 60-minute game. Not once did I think we were going to lose it. Goals

Love that top line combo. Let's stick with it for a while. And let's keep Holtby in there for a while to let the young guns get healthy. No need to rush them back if our defense plays strong and the offense starts to rise from the dead.

Posted by: Section104 | January 21, 2011 7:50 AM | Report abuse

A very important observation from the Islanders' broadcasters...

Howie Rose (play-by-play) asked Butch Goring (color analyst) if the 1979/1980 season, when Goring came to the Islanders, was similar to the current Caps season.

Goring said yes. Like the Caps, the Islanders lost out in the previous two years' playoffs, but the team was so strong that "everyone" in the NHL was saying that 1980 was the year for the team to take the Cup. He said those expectations created tremendous pressure for the players, resulting in uneven play.

Their season had two bouts of poor performance: 1-7-1 (W-L-Tie) in November and 2-6-0 in February. Goring said the Caps now, like the Islanders back then, are learning how to fight through the pressure, when every loss is a body blow.

At the end of the season, the Islanders went 8-0-4, then went on to win their first Stanley Cup (three more followed the next three years).

A forecast for the Caps? Who knows. But hearing the Islanders description from a top player and seeing the stats does give us a better understanding of what's bugging the Caps. And it gives us reason to hope...

Posted by: OccasionalCritic | January 21, 2011 7:53 AM | Report abuse

@ occassional critic

Very well done. I have hope.

To all you Chimera haters, shut up.

My bold prediction: I have been saying this for years. Holtby is the goalie of the future. VArly is hurt too much. Neuvirth has the skills, but I think Holtby has the intangibles. I love that he's quirky. Played great last night.

Posted by: jmurray019 | January 21, 2011 8:03 AM | Report abuse

@VermontCaps
You seem like a nice poster. However you might be going a little overboard on the Erskine-DJ King thing. I mean I might rewind the Phoebe Cates scene in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" a few times, but to rewind Erskine and DJ sitting next to each other on the bench?! Getting a little cold up there in Vermont?

Posted by: kcbrichmond | January 21, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

@kcbrichmond

vermontcaps is a tool. He compared his fathers battle with cancer to Coach Boudreau's "negative" impact on the team and its struggles.

Nice poster? Don't think so.

Posted by: jmurray019 | January 21, 2011 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Vermontcaps --

Did DJ King play last night :-) Seriously, do you really feel that he has had an impact in his limited appearances ? I don't. I'm with you on Erskine, I didn't think much of him prior to this year, but he has played really well and the back 6 seems better with him in and Poti out. But DJ King ? Not seeing it.

Posted by: MadCap1 | January 21, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I rarely post my own opinions here. However, this blog never ceases to amaze me. No matter what the Caps do I can always count on reading posts here that leave me thinking the Caps are the worst team in hockey and undoubtedly have the worst management. Get a grip people, things may not be going as well as some expected but this isn't the Edmonton Oilers either. No I'll wait for the inevitable post that explains why Edmonton is better off and better managed.

Posted by: hateisnotafamilyvalue | January 21, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Hate,

I completely agree. Some of the regulars here are way over the top and as a result I usually just read Katie's comments and move on.

Posted by: croftonpost | January 22, 2011 12:29 AM | Report abuse

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