Islanders rally past Capitals with big third period to take Game 1

The Islanders were all brawn and no brains, but somehow finessed a win.

Unable to stay out of the penalty box and keep their heads above the physical play for much of the game, the Islanders emerged victorious after three unanswered goals in the third period propelled them to a 4-2 win in Game 1 against the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon.

Down 2-1 at the start of the third, the Islanders — boosted by Jordan Eberle’s goal with less than two minutes left in the second period — came out flying on the first shift and Anders Lee buried a rebound to tie the game 51 seconds in. It was the Islanders captain’s first point of the 2020 playoffs after going pointless in the Florida play-in series.

Just as the Islanders were finding their groove in staying out of the box, Leo Komarov was called for high-sticking at 5:51. But a pesky Brock Nelson turned the Islanders’ luck around after stealing the puck in the Capitals’ zone and finding Josh Bailey for a short-handed goal and the lead.

Anthony Beauvillier capped off the Islanders’ third-period scoring spree — three goals in 7:55 — after putting away a dish from Bailey at the left post.

Semyon Varlamov turned aside 23 of the 25 shots he faced.

The Islanders only had two shots in the first period as they collected 15 of their 23 total penalty minutes. As the Islanders rotated in and out of the penalty box, Washington capitalized on two of its seven man-advantages.

It wasn’t until the final 20 minutes the Islanders started making the Capitals play their brand of hockey. And maybe it took the Islanders just staying out of the penalty box after taking nine penalties through the first two periods.

Anthony BeauvillierGetty Images

Both the Islanders and Capitals came out of the gate like a bunch of heavyweights on skates. The physicality was dialed up from puck drop and escalated when Anders Lee laid a hard shoulder into Niklas Backstrom. Capitals defenseman John Carlson went after Lee for the first of several matching roughing penalties in the game.

On the subsequent power play, a scrum broke out in front of the benches after Casey Cizikas got tied up with Tom Wilson. Matt Martin then took an ill-advised roughing penalty for cross-checking Ovechkin after the whistle. Wilson bailed the Islanders out and negated the final 40 seconds of Washington’s power play after he was called for interference on Adam Pelech.

Once both teams got most of their punches out, the pace of play turned up and led to dangerous scoring chances. The Islanders’ best opportunity of the period came at 18:50 of the first after Nelson took the puck from Ovechkin and finessed around Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov for a shot that went wide right.

The Capitals had to play the second and third periods without first-line center Backstrom as he remained in the locker room. Both teams seemed to settle down into the middle frame until Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby mishandled the puck and had to make back-to-back saves on Cizikas and Martin on the doorstep at 4:10.

Martin was then penalized for the second time for interference seconds later, handing Washington its fourth man-advantage of the game. A whacky bounce allowed T.J. Oshie to capitalize and put the Caps on the board at 5:27 of the second.

Shortly after, Eberle was called for hooking to put the Islanders back on the penalty kill for the fifth time. Traffic in front of Varlamov resulted in Oshie shoveling the puck through for his second goal at 10:18.

With just under two minutes left in the middle frame, Eberle was patient with the puck on the rush and wristed one right over the glove of Holtby to make it 2-1.