Five Steps to a Capitals Comeback
UNIONDALE, NY -- What does a Stanley Cup contender do when nothing is working, their feisty underdog of an opponent is giving them fits and they're down 2-0 with 15 minutes left in the game? To hear the Washington Capitals tell it after coming back to beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday night, a few things.
Be Aggressive: "The coaching staff told us before the third they wanted all the defensemen rushing the puck and getting it deep," said veteran blueliner Tom Poti. "There shouldn't be any wasted time in the neutral zone."
Defenseman Mike Green scored at 6:02 of the third period to close the gap to 2-1. Although the Islanders out-shot the Capitals 16-8 in the third period, the stat is misleading. While the Islanders had their chances to put the game away, Washington had a significant territorial edge in the final 10 minutes.
Get Angry: The Islanders won most of the one-one-battles through two periods and the game was chippy, with star wing Alexander Ovechkin engaging in personal battles with Andy Sutton, Sean Bergenheim, Jon Sim and Radek Martinek during the game and after whistles. Emotions boiled over when Islanders center Nate Thompson put a penalized knee-on-knee hit on Green, who was hobbled but stayed in the game.
"When Mike scored that goal," said Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, "you could tell how badly he wanted it, how badly he wanted to win. He got mad, like 'What the heck, let's win this game.' He played like he's capable of playing. For me, he was the best defenseman in the league last season."
Pray for Goaltending: A 1-0 Islanders lead after the first period could have been a lot more if the home team finished their chances and Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore didn't make several key stops.
"They really came hard and out-worked us," said Theodore. "As a goalie, especially with the talent we have, you just want to keep it close."
Said Boudreau: "I was thinking on the bench, Jose has played so well for us with not much to show for it. Let's win one for him."
Make Adjustments: Mid-way through the game, Boudreau split up Ovechkin and veteran right wing Mike Knuble. "I didn't see the chemistry," said the coach. "They were fighting the puck. I thought it was best for Knuble and Alex."
Keith Aucoin, just called up from the AHL, scored on a scramble near the crease off Islanders second-year center Josh Bailey to make it 2-2. Assists were credited to Ovechkin and Jeff Schultz.
Never Quit: Less than 10 minutes after scoring the overtime goal to give Washington the win, Capitals center Brooks Laich made it clear that the Islanders gave his team all they had.
"We have a lot of respect for that team," said Laich. "They work hard and are extremely well-coached. Teams talk a lot about working hard, but I don't think you can say that for every team in this league. The Islanders do. There's a reason five of our last seven games against them have gone to overtime."
Laich wasn't aware of the Islanders' recent tendency for blowing third period leads (New York is now 1-0-3 this season when leading after two periods). But he did think the Islanders could be taken.
"On the ice you could see fatigue in their faces in the third when we started carrying the play," said Laich. "They looked a little tired."
Boudreau cited the Islanders having played their third game in four nights, but his pride over his team's comeback out-weighed any disappointment in their disjointed first 30 minutes.
"Any time your team comes back from down 2-0 in the NHL, you're happy," said Boudreau. "It means you never quit."