Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) – Jaroslav Halak stopped 24 shots and Brock Nelson picked up his first two career playoff goals as the New York Islanders opened the postseason with a solid 4-1 victory over Washington in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal from Verizon Center.
Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist while Ryan Strome provided the other tally for the Islanders, who posted their first win in a playoff opener since 2003.
“Our guys played hard,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “When you play against elite players, you want to be smart and controlled. All of them played extremely well.”
Marcus Johansson supplied the lone offense for the Capitals, while Braden Holtby surrendered three goals on 26 shots in defeat.
Game 2 is set for Friday night in America’s capital.
Strome’s shot from the left circle from a faceoff win beat Holtby to the near post at 3:50 of the second, and Bailey followed up his own rebound from the right post and it was 3-1 for the Isles just after the midway point of regulation.
“We had some good sticks tonight and that’s obviously a focus of our game,” said Kyle Okposo, who set up Bailey’s insurance goal. “They have a lot of guys who like to wheel and score off the rush, so we were able to disrupt that a bit.”
New York aided its cause on special teams by killing off both its short-handed situations — one early in the second period and another early in the third — by effectively isolating Caps star Alex Ovechkin while pressuring Washington’s puck carrier or handler.
Halak faced just eight shots in the final 20 minutes and none were point-blank chances.
Holtby was on the bench with more than two minutes remaining, but Nelson chased down Anders Lee’s try to the empty net and emphatically slammed it home after a kind carom off the end boards with 1:19 to play.
Nelson gave the visitors a lead just after the six-minute mark of the contest on a shot from the right circle which may have deflected off a stick before hitting the back of the net.
Johansson ripped one home with 56.3 seconds left before intermission. Caps forward Brooks Laich challenged a Halak clear along the right-wing end boards, and slipped a pass back into the Swedish winger for a right-circle blast.
“I don’t think our execution was there,” Laich admitted. “It starts with thinking quicker and moving quicker. I don’t think we did that well in the first period especially.”
The Islanders topped the Senators in Ottawa by a 3-0 count on April. 9, 2003 in Game 1 of that Eastern quarterfinal, but New York had lost three straight playoff openers until Wednesday … Strome became the first Islander to record a GWG in his playoff debut since Clark Gillies in 1975 … These franchises and long-time division rivals have played six times previously in the postseason (1983, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87 and ’93) with the Islanders winning all but one (1986) … Ovechkin finished with a game-high eight shots, but also missed four times … In his Washington playoff debut, defenseman Matt Niskanen finished with a game-worst minus-4 rating.