WASHINGTON — The Islanders closed out the preseason with a bit of a clunker, though Sunday’s 4-0 loss to the Capitals means nothing. It felt more like a game the Isles wanted to get through than work through, with this being the eighth and final preseason game before the season officially begins Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t think you can really judge anything yet,” said John Tavares, who played his first preseason game for the Islanders after missing the bulk of training camp for the World Cup. “It’s just good to get out there with the guys, get back to the middle after nine games on the left side [for Team Canada]. I think we’re ready and excited to get going now.”
There still are some judgments to be made in finalizing the 23-man roster by Tuesday.
Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, a pair of 19-year-old forwards, played again against a much tougher lineup than either had seen before.
Beauvillier had a golden view of Alex Ovechkin’s patented one-timer from the right circle, barely getting his leg out of the way as Ovechkin’s laser beat Jaroslav Halak (23 saves) in the second period. Beauvillier and Barzal each played six of eight preseason games. There could be regular-season games in their future, but Sunday was a lesson in how heavy the NHL game will be.
“It was a man’s game out there,” coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought Barzal made some really good plays again, but again there’s some areas where he can improve, make the easy play instead of trying to do too much. It’s a great learning experience for those guys.”
If the Islanders keep Barzal and Beauvillier to start the season, two players likely will have to be sent down. Forward Alan Quine, penciled in as the 13th forward for now, and third goaltender J-F Berube require waivers; defensemen Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock do not. None of those four played Sunday.
There were some moments to file away as well, given that these two rivals will meet again here on Saturday when it counts. Cal Clutterbuck got under numerous skins, drawing a few (declined) fight invitations and one big whack on the legs from the stick of goaltender Braden Holtby.
Jason Chimera made his return to the Verizon Center, an Islander now after seven seasons with the Capitals. Chimera bumped a few of his old pals, including Tom Wilson, drawing a few smiles from his old mates.
“Not really,” he said when asked if he enjoyed his return. “You want to play better than that. When you’ve played a lot of preseason games, you definitely want to get going after a while. It’s nice to come back, see some people, but myself, our team, we want to be better.”