It’s almost like Willy relishes the hatred he’s getting from Islanders fans.
Photoshop by Ian Oland
If the Caps win today in game six, not only will they advance to the second round of the playoffs, but they’ll also close Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum forever. Next year, the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn, NY, to play in the Barclays Center.
When CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley asked Caps captain Alex Ovechkin about this possibility on Friday, he strayed from the team’s message that it was just another game.
Thursday’s 5-1 win over the New York Islanders was the best Capitals’ playoff victory win since 2009. Now, if the Caps can get just one goal over the Isles, they can advance to the next round and shut down Nassau Coliseum for good.
Crash the net. Finish the fight. Shut down the barn.
Caps lead the series 3-2. 3 PM on NBC.
|Team||Record||Possession||PDO||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|New York Islanders||47-28-7||53.5%||99.1||18.7%||78.0%|
In game four, Caps winger Tom Wilson injured Islanders 38-year-old defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky with a clean hit behind the net. That threw gasoline on an already simmering fire — Kyle Okposo injured Eric Fehr the game before in another clean hit— and Visnovksy’s teammates came to his defense through a war of words in the media.
“He’s an idiot,” Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said. “That guy runs around, he hits reckless. He jumps, leaves his feet. There’s no place for that.”
“We could have easily hit a lot of guys like that too,” captain John Tavares said.
On Thursday night, the Islanders looked to serve some frontier justice to Wilson.
Woo! (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
For the last four seasons, the Capitals had been on a steady decline. During their Bruce Boudreau era runs for Presidents’ Trophy, they were D.C.’s team. For fans since the 70’s and young transplants in suits, Rocking the Red was all the rage.
In 2011, the team started going downhill. Boudreau was fired, with three coaches taking his place since then. Meanwhile, the Nationals got good. The Caps were no longer fashionable. The hockey wasn’t the same either. Instead of exciting run-and-gun matches, the Caps played overly defensive games and then, under Adam Oates, just plain bad ones, missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Despite claiming a sellout every night, Verizon Center was littered with empty purple seats.
But with Washington’s comeback victory in game two, the spark was lit. On Thursday, the Phone Booth was red, proud, and loud. The Caps dominated, beating the Islanders 5-1 and taking a 3-2 series lead.
“We love this,” Karl Alzner, who scored Thursday, told me. “The fact that we see everybody getting excited for it and feeling good about our team and about our chance at winning some games, that’s what’s exciting for us.”
Photo: Rob Carr
There was a time when we doubted he’d ever show up, but, last March, Evgeny Kuznetsov finally came to the Caps. Three KHL seasons after George McPhee winked at a TSN camera and drafted the young Russian, Kuznetsov left his hometown team, Trakor Chelyabinsk, to live in Alex Ovechkin’s house in Arlington, Va., and play North American hockey. Thursday night was his coming out party.
After going scoreless in his first four career playoff games, Kuznetsov tallied two goals and an assist in game five. It wasn’t so much that he scored or recorded a team-high three points, it was the confidence that Kuznetsov oozed. We saw it on display all the time in the KHL– from his wacky celebrations, brash interviews, and constant production of highlight-reel plays– but that swagger hasn’t come easily this season. Kuznetsov had to learn a new position, center, and he had to learn how to be successful in a new, nuanced system under veteran head coach Barry Trotz. On top of that, the 22 year old had to learn a new culture and language.
On Thursday, those struggles and insecurities evaporated in front of 18,506 at Verizon Center. It was beautiful to watch.
Tonight we dance.
Also tonight, we witnessed the emergence of Evgeny Kuznetsov as a Caps playoff legend. Scoring two in a thrilling home-ice win over the Islanders, Kuznetsov is all you’ll talk about on Friday. If someone tries to talk about something else, then you’re done talking to that person.
The Caps surrendered the game’s first goal to Josh Bailey, but don’t worry– the rest of this recap is gonna be a blast.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, the goddamn hero, batted a puck out of mid-air to tie the game, and then Karl Alzner (no seriously) stormed the net to give the Caps the lead after forty. The Caps blew a power play early in the third, but Brooks Laich grabbed a loose puck soon after to make it 3-1.
The flood gates.
In the third, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second of the night on a breakaway, and then Jason Chimera got a dribbler into the Isles net. And with that, at long last, the Capitals had chased Jaroslav Halak from the net in a playoff game.
Caps beat Islanders 5-1. Caps lead the series 3-2.
Karl Alzner just scored his second goal of the series. Who is this man?!
The goal was made possible by a great Andre Burakovsky breakout and a great Jay Beagle carry-in. As the puck got loose in the slot, Troy Brouwer shot it at the Islanders net. Brouwer dug the puck out of Jaro Halak’s pads before hitting Alzner, who was streaking to the net.
Evgeny Kuznetsov just scored his first career NHL playoff goal. After winning a face-off right back to Karl Alzner, Kuzy skated hard to the net and set up camp in front of Jaro Halak. Alzner’s point shot was blocked, but Marcus Johansson managed to chip it up into the air, where Kuznetsov batted the puck into the net baseball-style.