By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 31, 2009
For the better part of two weeks, the Washington Capitals had been eking out wins over opponents they should have beaten convincingly.
On Friday night, it caught up to them on home ice against one of the league's worst clubs.
The Capitals surrendered a one-goal lead late in the second period, then defenseman Mark Streit of the New York Islanders hammered a shot past goaltender José Theodore 53 seconds into overtime to hand the Capitals a humbling, miscue-riddled 4-3 defeat.
The victory was only the Islanders' third of the season and it halted Washington's six-game wining streak, stunning a capacity crowd at Verizon Center.
"A lot of these games we've escaped," veteran center Brendan Morrison said. "We haven't played our best hockey. I think what we have to worry about is the process -- how we're winning games. If we go about that the right way, we'll come out on top most nights."
Winger Tomas Fleischmann, in his second game back from a blood clot in his leg, scored two goals, the second of which came on the power play and gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead with 3 minutes 17 seconds remaining in the second period.
But instead of building on that edge, the Capitals gave the goal right back when Frans Nielsen scored his second goal of the game from the top of the circles with an ordinary-looking wrist shot that appeared to fool Theodore. It was the third-liner's first career two-goal game.
Coach Bruce Boudreau defended his team's effort, saying it was better than Thursday's in Atlanta, where the Capitals hung on for an ugly 4-3 win.
"I thought tonight was a lot better than last night," Boudreau said. "It was the first game we had 40 shots on goal. I thought the power play was moving the puck around extremely well. I thought [Islanders goalie Dwayne] Roloson played well. I thought we had breakdowns. Mike [Green] just over-skated the puck."
Boudreau was referring to a gaffe by Green in the second period that led directly to the Islanders' second goal.
Green, who earlier in the game set up Alex Ovechkin's 14th goal of the season, took his eye off the puck momentarily as he surveyed the ice on front of him, then whiffed on the pass. The puck went right to Nielsen, who flicked it over Theodore at 7:12 to put the Islanders ahead, 2-1.
"You can't get mad at that," Boudreau said. "It was a physical mistake. It happens."
Green's mistake was costly, but it wasn't the Capitals' only deficiency.
For the second straight game, the Capitals' top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin dazzled fans with its ability to make beautiful passes.
But for the second straight night, the trio appeared more intent on making the highlight shows than scoring goals.
"I thought they came wanting to play," Boudreau said. "But they were way too fancy and way too cute. They could have had four or five goals if they were really sharp. But they weren't."
Boudreau conceded that he considered disbanding the line after a three-on-one late in the first period didn't yield a shot on Roloson.
At the other end of the ice, Theodore had a number of big saves, including highlight stops in the third period on John Tavares and Sean Bergenheim. But Boudreau said he wasn't too pleased with the Islanders' first goal. Kyle Okposo hustled into the Capitals' zone and beat Theodore between the pads to answer Ovechkin's power-play strike, which came just 4:41 into the contest.
"José has been so good for us," Boudreau said. "He probably would have loved to have had the first one back. That last goal was from the circles with no one around him. "
It wasn't all bad for the Capitals, however.
The power play scored twice for the second straight game, giving the previously beleaguered unit five goals in the past three games.
There was also Fleischmann's performance. In addition to his two goals, he had a number of other scoring chances that just missed.
"I thought he was very good," Boudreau said. "He's going to be a great asset to have and he was a main reason the power play was clicking the way it was."
Fleischmann said he felt better than he did in Atlanta, particularly from a timing standpoint. Even though he has been back for only two games, he recognizes that the Capitals still must learn to close out wins with consistent efforts.
"It's something we have to figure out in our team," Fleischmann said. "We have to play for 60 minutes."
Capitals notes: Six of the past eight games between the Capitals and Islanders have gone to overtime. . . .
Green has points in eight straight games, the longest streak for a defenseman this season. . . .
Quintin Laing (swine flu), Eric Fehr (sore ribs), John Erskine (bruised hand) and Boyd Gordon (back spasms) were sidelined. . . .
Michael Nylander played his final game with the American Hockey League's Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday. His two-week conditioning stint ends Tuesday.