Finally feeling at home, Islanders beat Caps
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A season-long seven-game homestand began with the New York Islanders playing as if they couldn't wait to get back on the road. It ended with the Islanders happy to squeeze a couple extra minutes out of their suddenly robust Nassau Coliseum experience.
John Tavares scored two power play goals in less than a minute late in the third period and the Islanders used a three-goal flurry to pull away for a 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals before a matinee crowd of 14,619.
Both of Tavares' goals came on four-minute power plays.
The second one, the 100th goal of Tavares' career, was awarded to him after the officials reviewed the footage for more than two minutes after he beat Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer with a rebound of Matt Moulson's shot.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano said he was confident the goal would be awarded to Tavares and impressed with how New York played until the stoppage.
"Our video coach is right on that; Mattie's pretty good," Capuano said, referring to Matt Bertani. "So we had a good idea beforehand."
With a grin, Capuano added: "Played a few extra minutes."
The Islanders ended the homestand with a few extra points than they might have envisioned when they opened the stretch by being outscored, 8-3, in consecutive losses to the Hurricanes and Bruins.
Those losses dropped the Islanders' home record to 2-8-0, their worst mark through 10 games since 1989-90.
But the Islanders recorded a point in each of the final five games on two regulation wins, a shootout victory over the Senators and overtime losses to the Maple Leafs and Rangers.
As a result, the Islanders (11-11-3) have moved within one point of the Rangers for eighth place in the East as they try to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006-07.
"I think there's some improvement, for sure," Capuano said. "We went through a drought there that was obviously killing us. But we regrouped and the last few games have been better.
"Obviously we've got to have a better home record, so we're not where we want to be. But we're moving in the right direction."
Frans Nielsen provided an insurance goal with 3:01 left for the Islanders, while Josh Bailey and Casey Cizikas also scored. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves.
Joel Ward and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals (10-12-1), who had their three-game winning streak stopped as they failed to reach .500 for the first time this year. Washington still is an impressive 8-4-0 since a 2-8-1 start.
The Islanders outshot the Capitals, 45-24, but were locked in another tight duel (15 of their 25 games have been decided by two goals or fewer) before Tavares' consecutive goals ensured they would enter a three-game trip to Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Florida on a high note.
The Islanders are 6-3-1 away from home.
Tavares' first goal was a put-back of a rebound of Brad Boyes' shot at 7:47. He was credited with his second goal only 30 seconds later, although the officials had to wait to review it until a stoppage in play a little under five minutes left.
The time that elapsed between Tavares' second goal and the stoppage was then added to the clock.
"Pretty soon we're going to be under 20 games (left) and things are going to go by real fast, so this was a good way to finish at home," Tavares said. "Now we've got to get back to the way we've been playing on the road and getting back to that mindset and how we've been successful there."
The decisive four-minute power plays were created when Mike Ribeiro drew consecutive penalties for high sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct, and after Jeff Schultz was whistled for high sticking.
Ribeiro was penalized 99 seconds after Backstrom pulled the Capitals even for the second time.
"We got a big goal and the penalties hurt us," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Simple as that."
Grubauer made 40 saves for the Capitals in his first NHL start. Grubauer was spelling starter Braden Holtby, who made 11 straight starts before Saturday.
The teams traded goals until the Islanders' third period outburst. The Islanders took the lead 10:46 into the first when Nielsen picked up a loose puck at center ice and dished it to Bailey, who capped the 2-on-1 by drawing Grubauer to the left of the net and then wristing a shot into the right-hand corner of the net.
The Capitals tied it on a fluke power play goal less than 90 seconds into the second. John Carlson's slap shot from the blue line glanced off Nabokov's glove, but Ward, who had his back to the goal, glanced over his shoulder and backhanded the puck past three Islanders and Nabokov.
The Islanders regained the lead just before the midway point of the second when Cizikas beat Grubauer with a slap shot from the right faceoff circle. Matt Martin set up the goal by picking off the puck at center ice and passing it to Colin McDonald.
Backstrom tied it 7:09 into the third with a scorching slap shot from just beyond the left faceoff circle that sailed over Nabokov's right shoulder.
NOTES: The Islanders scratched center Keith Aucoin, winger Eric Boulton and defenseman Joe Finley, while the Capitals scratched goalie Michal Neuvirth, defenseman Tom Poti and winger Aaron Volpatti. ... Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky returned to the team after missing two games because of a family tragedy in his native Slovakia. ... Islanders assistant coach Brent Thompson began serving a two-game suspension Saturday for drawing a game misconduct Thursday following the Islanders' 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers. Thompson was arguing the sticking penalty on Michael Grabner that led to the Rangers' game-winning power play goal. ... Grubauer made his NHL debut against the Flyers on Feb. 27, when he made 14 saves in relief of Braden Holtby in the Capitals' 4-1 loss. ... Saturday marked the start of the Capitals' fourth set of back-to-back games, but their first set played entirely on the road. Washington visits the Rangers on Sunday.