Capitals 5, Islanders 4 OT/SO (2-1)
The New York Islanders and the Washington Capitals seem to be getting used to extra time to decide a winner. This game would be no different as it would go into an eleven round shoot out for captain Chris Clark and the Capitals take the extra two points and the overall lead in the Eastern Conference. Clark's wrister beat Islander Dwayne Roloson winning the game 5-4.
Alex Semin had one of those nights where he dominated the ice, both in a good way and a bad way. Just :08 seconds into the game, Semin let a wicked slap shot go and it beat Roloson. It would tie a franchise record for fastest goal in a game. Semin would get a second goal on the power play and scored again in the shoot out. Tomas Fleischmann continues his consecutive game point streak to six games with a goal and Eric Fehr scored a neat little back hander that ricocheted off a defender and into the net.
The Caps got off to a quick start by scoring just eight seconds into the game, but the Islanders answered back with 3 straight goals. One of which came off of Semin's stick when he tried to cut down the middle of the ice and was hit by Trent Hunter. The puck ended up on Sean Bergenheim's stick and he had a clear break away and scored on Jose Theodore. It would be the last we saw of Theodore who was replaced after that with Semyon Varlamov.
That is when the Caps put their nose to the grindstone and worked their way back into the game. Nick Backstrom played a big part in the first period to get at least one goal back when he showed some stick handling skills on the power play. Cutting through Islanders he lost the puck in front of the net, but Fleischmann was there to shoot it past Roloson to make it 3-2.
Semin would tie it on a second period power play when Mike Green made a nice move in the zone, circled the net and found Semin in front for the quick high shot. Eric Fehr would give the Caps the lead not long after that when he tried a backhand pass to the front of the net. The puck hit the defender however and the puck found it's way into the net. The Caps answered the Islanders's three straight goals with three of their own.
It looked like the Caps were going to make it to another regulation win, but Trent Hunter rocketed a shot past Varlamov's shoulder and tied the game with just over two minutes to go.
In the overtime period, it seemed as if the Caps did not want to take it into a shoot out. They pressured often in the extra frame getting four shots on net. But the Islanders' goaltender came up with the saves and a shoot out was inevitable.
It would take eleven rounds of the shoot out before captain Clark wristed a shot past Roloson to give the Caps the win. Varlamov was only beaten once by Jeff Tambellini, but he remained solid for the remaining rounds. He gave a celebratory fist pump when he stopped the last player and as his teammates jumped the boards to celebrate the Caps' eleventh win.
With their two points, the Caps will take sole possession of first place in the East by two points. While they hold a two point lead in the East, they hold a 9 point lead in their division with Tampa Bay at the Caps heels. Doing this with out franchise player Alex Ovechkin makes the feat that more remarkable. 10 players have scored a goal since Ovechkin was injured, picking up the offensive slack.
It was not the prettiest game the Caps have played, but they were a resilient group coming back from a 3-1 deficit. It was a well earned win as the New York Islanders out worked the Caps many times. After Bruce Boudreau switched goaltenders, the Caps played a more balanced game. A good sign that the team doesn't quit, no matter the score.