WASHINGTON - The Islanders head home with a 1-1 split, but it still feels like disappointment after they coughed up a two-goal lead against a rookie goaltender and dropped Game 2 of their opening playoff series to the Capitals Friday night.
Jason Chimera's wrist shot past Jaroslav Halak with 12:23 to play proved to be the winning goal in a 4-3 Islanders loss that featured a barrage of Washington shots and too few from the Isles against Philipp Grubauer, the Capitals' AHL goaltender, who made his playoff debut after Braden Holtby was sidelined by what the team said was an illness.
Washington outshot the Islanders 35-21, had an 82-51 edge in attempts and, starting in the midpoint of the second period, logged long stretches of time controlling play in the Islanders' zone, leading to uncharacteristic mistakes.
"We didn't play for 60 minutes," said Halak, who made 31 saves and was under pressure a great portion of the night. "The first half of the game from our side was really good, but we just stopped skating."
Grubauer's surprising start was greeted 5:14 into the first period by Cal Clutterbuck zipping a wrist shot past him on the Islanders' second shot of the game, silencing an already tense Verizon Center crowd.
The Isles blocked 15 shots in the first period, a good/bad scenario: good that they were willing to sacrifice, bad that they had the puck so little.
Ryan Strome's second goal in two games, off a feed from John Tavares, made it 2-0 at 3:24 of the second period. But a broken Islander stick later in the period allowed the Caps to set up what amounted to a power-play possession that Karl Alzner finished with a 40-footer that snuck under Halak's arm at 11:26.
The Islanders answered with Kyle Okposo's top-shelf wrister, which provided a 3-1 lead at 14:09 and was the third goal on 13 shots against Grubauer. But another broken stick, this one Okposo's, allowed a long possession that ended with Alex Ovechkin tucking a rebound past Halak. That cut the Islanders' lead to 3-2 after two periods. The Capitals pumped 18 second-period shots on Halak.
"We just weren't as aggressive in the second half of the game," Tavares said. "We just didn't generate enough."
Strome took an ill-advised slashing penalty in a post-whistle scrum just 2:50 into the third and Nicklas Backstrom's wrist shot, after he froze all four penalty-killers on the rush, tied it at 3:44. Then Chimera, after a rare giveaway by Nick Leddy in his own zone, pounced on his own rebound for the eventual winner.
"It's a few silly mistakes, especially from me at the end there," Leddy said. "It's the playoffs, so we get another opportunity in a couple days here."
That will be Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum, a day that will be loud and raucous. Had the Islanders brought back a 2-0 series lead -- they haven't had one of those since the 1983 Finals -- it would have been a roar unlike no other.
Instead, it's not a crusher to head back even, considering how much the Caps controlled Friday night's game.
"Obviously, it would have been nicer to have this one," Halak said. "We split the games and now we go home to our fans."
"It doesn't matter if you're up two, down two, we lost the game," Jack Capuano said. "In the playoffs, you have to have a short memory. We can't think about this one . . . We didn't deserve it."