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Postgame Notebook: Capitals 2, Islanders 1

Semyon Varlamov looks solid in debut, but Isles lose a "game of inches"

by Cory Wright WrightsWay /

The New York Islanders opening night party was spoiled on Friday night, as they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Washington Capitals at NYCB Live. 

Devon Toews scored the Isles' lone goal, but it was not enough to overcome a pair of tallies from Jakub Vrana and TJ Oshie. Semyon Varlamov stopped 26-of-28 shots in his Islanders debut, while rookie Ilya Samsonov stopped 25 shots for his first NHL win. 

It was a setback against a divisional foe, but in a close loss, there were no overreactions in the Islanders room after game one. 

"Obviously, we don't win, but I think we did some really good things tonight," captain Anders Lee said. "Regardless of the outcome we can build off this and get ready to go in a couple of days here and that's the next important game." 

Video: WSH@NYI: Toews pinballs shot in off defenders


Friday's Isles-Capitals game went according to script, as the two teams played another low-scoring, tight-checking and physical contest. 

"It's a game of inches out there," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "They hit a couple posts, we hit a couple posts… I thought in the third period they were the better team, but it was pretty even up to that point."

Trotz acknowledged that the Capitals had the advantage of playing on Wednesday night in St. Louis, while the Isles had to shake the rust off early on. Even with the Capitals having a running start, Trotz was happy with the Isles first period, which was an even affair. Vrana opened the scoring at 10:25, but the Isles answered right back, with Toews' centering feed clanking off three Capitals skates before squeezing by Samsonov. 

That was the last puck to go in for the Isles, but they were not without their chances. Brock Nelson had Samsonov beat in the second period, but his stuff-in attempt was blocked in the crease by defenseman John Carlson. Down 2-1 - thanks to Oshie's power-play goal at 17:43 of the second - Mathew Barzal's long shot found iron with 12:30 to play in the third. 

That's as close as the Isles would come though, as the Caps adopted a shutdown mentality late to close the game out and pulled away, but Friday is now the Isles foundation. 

"I think our execution could be a lot better," Cal Clutterbuck said. "But it was our first [game]. They had a game under their belt and a pretty good game the other night in St. Louis. The same will come for us. We defended pretty well. We defended the same way we usually do. A couple hiccups here and there, but at least we've got a starting point. We've got something to look at and something to talk about. Excited to get back out here Sunday and do it again." 

Video: WSH 2 vs NYI 1: Semyon Varlamov


Barry Trotz kept his starter a secret all the way to warmups on Friday, but it was indeed Semyon Varlamov who got the nod in the Isles season debut. 

Varlamov, who was greeted to a nice reception from fans in the pre-game lineup intro, was solid in his debut, stopping 26 shots in the loss. 

"I felt like the game is so much faster than the preseason game… especially in the first period," Varlamov said. "So, I had to adjust my game a little bit. It was a tough loss. I think we did a lot of good things today we just didn't score."

The Isles goalie had some good moments on Friday, including stopping Chandler Stephenson's shorthanded breakaway in the second period. A couple of pucks found the post behind him, but overall, a two-goal night against the reigning Metropolitan Division champs is respectable work. 

The two pucks to beat him were a Jakub Vrana snap early in the first and a TJ Oshie power-play tally from the slot. Overall, the Isles seem comfortable with their new netminder. 

"He's been around a long time. He's a good goaltender," Clutterbuck said. "We're not worried about him, we have a lot of confidence in him. But good start to for him and he made some good saves for us."

Video: WSH 2 vs NYI 1: Cal Clutterbuck


Friday's contest was largely played at five-on-five, as the teams combined for three penalties, but did offer some insights into the Isles special teams units. 

Derick Brassard found himself alongside Leo Komarov on the Isles second penalty kill, a vacancy created by Valtteri Filppula's departure. Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier were the Isles third unit, as Trotz seemingly paired the two new killers with experienced partners. The PK went 1-for-2. 

The Isles went 0-for-1 on their lone power play. Trotz started the Nelson unit (Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Brassard and Toews), though the Barzal unit (Barzal, Lee, Michael Dal Colle, Nick Leddy and Ryan Pulock) created the power play's best chance, working the puck to Leddy in the high slot.


The Islanders take on the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night at NYCB Live. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. 

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