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The Skinny

by Eric Hornick / New York Islanders
Game 45

Capitals 2, Isles 1

The Islanders held Alex Ovechkin without a goal but the “Great 8” had two assists as the Capitals spoiled Kyle Okposo’s return and defeated the Islanders 2-1 before 9,119 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders end their homestand with a 1-3-1 record.

0-1, Again
For the 8th straight game, the Isles allowed the opening goal and for the seventh time in that stretch it came in the first five minutes.  Jason Chimera converted an Ovechkin pass just 3:41 into play for the opening session’s only goal.  It was only the 29th first period goal for the Capitals, tying the Isles for the fewest first period goals.  Washington led the NHL last season with 92 first period tallies.  The Capitals took a lead into an intermission for the first time since New Year’s Day.

Backstrom Nets the Winner
The Caps doubled their advantage to 2-0 at the 3:38 mark when Nicklas Backstrom snapped a 21-game goal scoring drought.  It was his 12th goal of the season and eventually became his second winning goal of the season against the Isles. Ovechkin assisted on this goal, as well.  He has a point on all four goals (1-3-4) that Washington has scored against the Isles this season.

The Isles Get One Back
The Isles responded just 1:37 later when Michael Grabner scored his 12th goal of the season, and third in three games, to bring the Isles within one. Grabner’s 12 goals tie him for 5th among all rookies.  The Isles have five players with at least 11 goals (Tavares-18, Moulson-14, Comeau-13 and Parenteau-11 are the others); the quintet have combined for 66 of the Isles’ 108 goals (61%) this season.  Josh Bailey assisted on Grabner’s goal, extending his assist streak to three straight games.  Grabner now has a 4-game point streak (3-1-4) for the second time this season.

Power Failure
After Grabner’s goal, the Islanders had four power plays but could not convert to tie the game.  2-1 Final. 

Home and Road
The Capitals improve to 26-14-8, as they go over NHL .500 on the road (10-9-3). The Isles are 14-24-7, including 8-10-4 at home. They are now 10-14-4 under Jack Capuano, including 9-6-2 in the last 17. 

In the Nets
Braden Holtby made 24 saves to improve to 3-2-1 on the season.  Rick DiPietro made 22 saves for the Islanders, but drops to NHL .500 (7-7-4) as the loss ends a personal 4-game winning streak.  DiPietro is now 4-1-0 in his last five, with a 2.00 goals against average.

Power Plays
The Isles went 0-6 on the power play while Washington was 0-2. The Isles went 2-16 (12.5%) with the power play on their five game homestand after going 7-16 on the five-game road trip that preceded it.  (The Isles came into the game ranked 25th on the power play at home and 8th on the road.) The Isles killed 11-14 on the homestand and have killed 25 of 29 (86%) over the last ten games. 

In the Circle
The Isles had a strong first period in the circle (winning eight of the first 12 draws), but the Caps dominated the draws the rest of the way.  Overall, the Isles won 21 of 55 (38%) face-offs overall. No Islander won more than 50%. Boyd Gordon (12 of 14) and Backstrom (10 of 14) were strong on the draw for Washington.

Protecting the Lead
Washington is 12-0-4 when leading after one period and 18-0-1 when leading after two periods.

Missing Men
Mike Mottau and Mark Eaton are out for the season. Mark Streit, Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Frans Nielsen and Rhett Rakhshani remain out; Milan Jurcina missed his first game with an upper body injury. Kevin Poulin and Rob Schremp were healthy scratches. The Isles have now lost 286 man-games to injury.

Welcome Back Kyle and Frans!
Kyle Okposo made his season debut, playing 18:05, including 6:25 on the power play.  He was -1.  Frans Nielsen returned after missing seven games, playing 16:26.

Moulson Extends Streak
Matt Moulson, the Isles’ reigning ironman, has played in all 127 games since joining the team last season.  Zenon Konopka is the only other Isle to have played every game this season; his 57-game streak includes the final 12 games last season for Tampa Bay. Travis Hamonic has now played 25 NHL games (all consecutive); he has the longest consecutive game streak on defense for the Isles.

Home Sweet Home?
The Isles finish the homestand 1-3-1.  The Isles are five games into stretches of 13-of-20 and 19-of-29 at home. 

Busy Stretch
Tonight’s game was the first of five games in seven days for the Islanders, matching the club record.  It’s the 26th time that it has happened but the first time since it happened twice in the first 23 games of the 2007-08 season.

•    January 20  - Lost to Washington 1-2
•    January 21 - @ Buffalo
•    January 23- Vs Buffalo
•    January 25- @ Pittsburgh
•    January 26- Vs Carolina

Season Series Stats   
The Capitals lead the season series two games to none (and four points to zero), winning both games by a 2-1 score. The remaining meetings will be in consecutive Islander games (February 26 and March 1). Washington has now won five straight games on Long Island, although three were in overtime.  The Caps have beaten the Isles in four straight games overall, with a different goaltender (Varlamov –Theodore-Neuwirth-Holtby) winning each game.

Happy Anniversary
30 years ago today (January 20, 1981):   Butch Goring scored the winning goal and Chico Resch recorded the shutout as the Islanders blanked the Calgary Flames 5-0 in the only game that the Isles have ever hosted on a Presidential Inauguration Day. Mike Bossy was held scoreless, leaving him with 48 goals in 48 games. The Isles have not won on this date since, going 0-7-1.  Overall, the Isles are 3-8-1 on January 20th, including 2-2 when a President is inaugurated (Winning in 1977 (Carter) and 1981 (Reagan) and losing in 1973 (Nixon) and 1997 (Clinton II).

Up Next
Friday, January 21- Islanders @ Buffalo 7:30pm
[MSG+ (Subway Islanders Game Night at 7:00), WRHU 88.7FM]

The Islanders begin their first home-and-home series with the Sabres since opening the 2007-08 season with a home-and home as they travel to Buffalo for the first time this season.

The home team has dominated the season series in recent years, with the Isles winning the last four in Uniondale and the Sabres capturing the last three in Buffalo.

This is the second meeting in a week between the teams; John Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles won 5-3 on Saturday night. The teams will meet again on Sunday at 3pm at the Coliseum.

Eric Hornick has been the statistician on Islander home game telecasts since January 21, 1982. Information contained in “The Skinny” has been gathered from various sources.
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