Capitals complete 3-game sweep of Islanders with shutout

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J.J. Regan
·3 min read
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Caps complete 3-game sweep of Islanders with shutout originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals completed a three-game sweep of the New York Islanders on Tuesday in a tight 1-0 affair, the first game played in front of fans at Capital One Arena since March 4, 2020.

Washington and New York entered the series tied for first in the East Division. The sweep now gives the Caps a five-point lead over the Islanders. The win also restores Washington to first place in the division, one point ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins who lost on Tuesday.

Here is how the win happened.

A team game

When you are missing a player as significant as Alex Ovechkin, as well as Justin Schultz, the entire team has to step up its game. Washington has done that all season and improved to 5-0-1 in games Ovechkin has missed. You can't do that if each player doesn't buy into the team's system.

The Caps defensively shut New York down, plus the guy playing in Ovechkin's spot on the top line, Daniel Sprong, walked away with the only goal of the game.

Sprong keeps scoring

The first Caps goal scored in front of a home crowd in 2021 came from Sprong and the fans did not have to wait very long to see it. Sprong beat goalie Ilya Sorokin just 1:29 into the game.

Dmitry Orlov had the puck in the corner and drew two Islanders to him. Sprong came in to retrieve the puck and skated straight on net. Both New York players from the corner were behind him and defenseman Adam Pelech was in front of the net, but for some reason he started backing up as Sprong skated towards him with the puck. That gave Sprong a lane to shoot and he sniped the puck into the far corner.

Sprong now has three goals in two games and 10 for the season.

Team defense

Statistically, the Caps have been average on defense this season and entered Tuesday's game ranked 19th in the NHL in goals against per game. There have been a handful of defensive masterpieces over the course of the season, however, and Tuesday was among them.

Washington completely suffocated New York offensively, limiting them to just 18 shots on goal for the game. Through two periods, the Islanders had only 12 shots on goal. The Caps had 13 in the second period alone. Washington opened the third period outshooting New York 8-1 and limited the Islanders to just six shots on goal in the final period of a game they were trailing. The Caps were very physical in front of the net and dominated the defensive net-front presence, limiting New York's high-danger opportunities.

Vitek Vanecek also provided a solid effort when he was tested to earn the shutout, but the team kept the offense to a minimum for the Islanders overall. Granted, New York is a defensive team and their game plan appeared very conservative, but you have to give credit to Washington for just how thoroughly they blanked the Islanders.

The penalty kill

Offense may have been hard to come by for New York, but they were aided by some late power play opportunities. The Caps did not give up a power play opportunity in the first 38 minutes of the game, but the refs nailed them three times in the final 22 minutes including a penalty on a 4-on-4 giving New York a 4-on-3 opportunity late in the third period. Still, the penalty kill stood tall, killing off all three power plays and allowing only three shots on goal.