Islanders lose lead late, then lose in overtime
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Forget the blown lead and late loss to the Kings two weeks ago. Forget a rally to tie, only to leave Sidney Crosby alone in the slot for a game-loser against the Penguins last week. Forget the no-show loss to the Red Wings just 27 hours earlier.
The Islanders topped them all in the painful-defeat department Saturday night. And they even earned a point out of this one.
After putting together their best third period in weeks, the Islanders grabbed a one-goal lead against the Capitals on Thomas Vanek's goal-mouth scramble score with 1:51 left in the third.
Then Michael Grabner forced Mike Green to take a hooking penalty with 1:10 to go to prevent an empty-net try.
But the Caps tied it with 48.9 seconds left on Nicklas Backstrom's shorthanded goal. Inevitably, Alex Ovechkin snapped a wrist shot through Anders Nilsson's legs 2:07 into overtime, handing the Islanders a 3-2 loss that had several of them smashing sticks on the way to their Coliseum dressing room.
"We played hard, we deserved the two points," Vanek said, "and instead we gave them two."
Aside from a few lapses in the second period -- Aaron Volpatti outmuscled Matt Carkner to sweep in a loose puck at 8:58 of the period during one such lapse -- the Islanders limited their breakdowns and played an aggressive style as they tried to erase the ugliness of Friday's 5-0 loss to Detroit.
Nilsson, the 6-5 rookie, was making only his fourth career start and playing a very solid game. The Islanders were doing their best job in a long while in front of the goaltender. So they may have been a bit frustrated to trail 1-0 after two periods, but they didn't let it affect their play as they had during a five-game losing streak.
Even down a man early in the third, the Islanders continued to press. Cal Clutterbuck jumped on to a bouncing puck that skipped past Green and beat Braden Holtby between the pads for a shorthanded goal at 3:59 that tied the score and reminded the Islanders that their hard work could be rewarded.
The Islanders kept coming and the Capitals kept retreating in the final 10 minutes, and the Isles' top line converted after what seemed like a dozen great chances during the game. Kyle Okposo and John Tavares kept Holtby from freezing the puck and it slid around until it squirted out to Holtby's right, where Vanek pounced to bury it.
With the late man advantage, Jack Capuano swapped Travis Hamonic for Frans Nielsen to give the Islanders an added defenseman to preserve the lead in the final 1:10. "Obviously, we don't need a goal there," he said. "We wanted to defend the way we defended all game long."
Instead, the Caps won a one-on-two battle in the corner of the Islanders' zone and Backstrom found a soft spot in the slot to beat Nilsson.
"It just sucks because we played a good hockey game right to the end," Tavares said. "Our line let us down. We get a power play and we let them score. It's unacceptable."
Said Vanek, "We should have played 60 minutes instead of 59."
Once it got beyond 60, the Islanders froze up with the remainder of their power play and Ovechkin scored his fifth OT winner against them.
So another miserable November ended with a 4-10-1 record for the Islanders, and that's with wins in the first two games of the month.
"We accomplished a lot of what we wanted to accomplish," Capuano said. "It's frustrating it had to end that way."