WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Washington Capitals exorcised some significant playoff demons by edging the plucky New York Islanders 2-1 in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday night.
How it happened: The Capitals played a textbook game for most of the series finale, patient, punishing and limiting the Islanders to seven shots through two periods while peppering Jaroslav Halak with 21 heading into the final frame. When Joel Ward knocked home a rebound from in front after a Brooks Orpik point shot with 1:45 left in the second, it looked like that might be enough. But when Frans Neilsen sent a dribbler through Braden Holtby’s legs with the Islanders’ ninth shot of the night 3 minutes, 13 seconds into the third period to tie the game at 1-1, one had to wonder if the ghosts of the Verizon Center had other ideas, until Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the winner on a nice individual effort coming off the far wall and beat Jaroslav Halak from a sharp angle with 7:18 left in regulation.
What it means: The New York Islanders are still looking for their first playoff series win since 1993, and this will be a hard one to forget, as it officially brings to a close the team’s Long Island legacy. Credit Jack Capuano’s troops, who hung tough in this physical series, even though they were down three regular defensemen in Travis Hamonic, Calvin de Haan and Lubomir Visnovsky by the end of the series.
Player of the game: Kuznetsov, playing again with Jason Chimera and Marcus Johansson, was a dynamo all evening, controlling pucks and making plays. His forward unit was the most consistent, not just on this night but over the latter stages of the series, and he couldn’t have found a better time to deliver the biggest goal of his young NHL career.
Stat of the game: There was only one penalty called in the game, which says more about playoff officiating than it does about the play itself. But the Islanders were given the only man-advantage situation in the game with 2:54 left in regulation, when John Carlson was sent off for roughing. The Isles could not make it count and finished the series 0-for-14. They were credited with just 11 shots on goal to the Capitals’ 26.
What’s next: The Washington Capitals will advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and face the Presidents’ Trophy winners and Metropolitan Division champion New York Rangers.