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Nelson leads Islanders past Capitals in Game 1

by Katie Brown /

WASHINGTON -- Brock Nelson scored twice, Josh Bailey had a goal and an assist, and Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves to help the New York Islanders to a 4-1 win against the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Verizon Center on Wednesday.

Ryan Strome scored for the Islanders, who blew a chance to have home-ice advantage in this series when they lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.

Nelson opened the scoring 6:06 into the game when he beat Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with a wrist shot from the right circle that eluded Holtby's glove. Nelson sealed the win with an empty-net goal.

"Just try and bring a lot of energy, have fun," said Nelson, who played his second Stanley Cup Playoff game. "It's the best time of year to be playing hockey, so we wanted to come out and get a good start right off the drop of the puck, and we were able to do that."

Marcus Johansson scored for Washington. Holtby made 23 saves.

"We know they are really good in the neutral zone, and we didn't manage the puck very well," Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "The first goal was a good example of that. If you turn the puck over against them, they are a really good team in transition. They made us pay a few times."

Halak, who finished last season with the Capitals, came up big on the penalty kill against a dangerous Washington power play.

"Anytime he was called upon in a big situation, he was always there to make the timely saves for us," Bailey said. "It was a good start for our team and for him and we're going to need more of that going forward."

The Islanders were solid for 19 minutes in the first period before Johansson tied the game at 19:03. Halak misplayed the puck behind the net and forward Brooks Laich fed Johansson to make it 1-1.

Strome scored off a faceoff 3:20 into the second period. Islanders captain John Tavares won the offensive-zone draw and flipped a pass to Strome, who beat Holtby high on the blocker side.

"We knew coming in here we'd have to play a good, hard road game," Tavares said. "Anytime you're able to take the first one, you want to build on it and obviously take advantage of the next one. It was a good start for us."

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series will be played at Verizon Center on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC).

Washington managed seven shots on goal in the first period, prompting coach Barry Trotz to shake up his top two lines in an attempt to generate offense.

"[It was] a little bit of matchups and making them chase a little bit at the same time," Trotz said. "I don't think we were skating the way we need to against a team that can skate pretty good. We weren't as sharp as we need to be. We need to be a lot sharper. That goes right through the whole lineup."

Tavares led Islanders forwards in ice time (17:43).

"I thought that line played well against some offensive zone time and they did a lot of good things," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "[Tavares] has led us all year. I thought that line did a good job tonight."

Bailey gave New York a 3-1 lead at 10:36 of the second period when he tapped his rebound behind a sprawling Holtby on his second attempt.

Nelson outraced two Capitals and scored into an empty net at 18:41 of the third period for his second goal of the game.

Strome, forward Anders Lee and defenseman Calvin de Haan made their postseason debuts for the Islanders.

"Sometimes you feel a little bit of pressure as a young guy, obviously coming into a building like this and playing against some veterans that [the Capitals] have in their lineup," Capuano said. "I liked their composure. Their motion was in check and they came up big for us tonight. They skated and they played with confidence and poise. They've done that all year and right into Game 1."

Each team went 0-for-2 on the power play. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had eight shots on goal and a minus-2 rating.

The Islanders played without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury. Left wing Matt Martin and center Frans Nielsen returned after missing three regular-season games.

Forwards Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle returned to Washington's lineup each from an upper-body injury. Beagle missed 14 games and Fehr missed three.

Capitals forward Tom Wilson did not play. He was injured blocking a shot in a 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on April 5.

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