The loss snapped the Capitals’ three-game winning streak and handed rookie netminder Philipp Grubauer a loss in his first career NHL start despite 40 saves.
The untimely and frequent penalties were a recurrence of what had been a key problem for the Capitals early this season. Recently they had been more disciplined, committing no more than four minor penalties in any of the six previous games.
“Hopefully it’s a one-game thing. It’s obviously very frustrating,” Coach Adam Oates said. “We got a big goal and penalties hurt us, simple as that. Four-minute penalties, two of them. Their power play is a good power play; we held them for a while. It hurts.”
The Capitals (10-12-1) meandered off course quickly after Nicklas Backstrom scored on a one-timer blast from the top of the left circle to even the game at 2 just more than seven minutes into the third period.
Ribeiro was whistled for high-sticking Tavares at 8:48 of the third, then earned a second minor for unsportsmanlike conduct after swinging his stick at the boards and voicing his unhappiness with the initial call to the referees. It marked Ribeiro’s third unsportsmanlike penalty of the season.
“Mike knows better than that,” Oates said. “We’ll talk. I’m sure he feels bad about it.”
The compounding penalties forced Washington to face the Islanders’ potent power play, which entered the game ranked sixth in the NHL with a 23.1 percent effectiveness, for far too long. With 35 seconds remaining in the second penalty to Ribeiro, an unguarded Tavares scored to make it 3-2 when a rebound from a Brad Boyes point shot popped out to him on the right side of the cage.
Penalties are “going to creep up on you once in awhile. The penalties that we took are penalties that could have been avoided,” forward Troy Brouwer said. “Nothing against Ribs, but it’s timing. Timing’s not good. I feel like we shot ourselves in the foot tonight. We were right there in the game, 2-2, and you know we took ourselves out of the game with turnovers.”
Schultz went off for four minutes after high-sticking and cutting New York defenseman Andy MacDonald all of 22 seconds after Tavares’s first goal. Eight seconds into that power play, Tavares made it 4-2. His shot ricocheted off the goal camera and came back out of the net so quickly it was initially waved off. When officials reviewed the replay at the next stoppage of play, nearly three minutes later, they credited Tavares with the tally.