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Islanders waste two-goal lead, fail to sweep Capitals in Game 4 loss

Semyon Varlamov #40 of the Islanders allows a

Semyon Varlamov #40 of the Islanders allows a goal to Alex Ovechkin (not pictured) of the Washington Capitals at 3:40 during the third period in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 18, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

The Islanders got the start they wanted against a team on the brink of elimination.

Not much else went according to plan after they built a two-goal lead in the first period. The Capitals prevented the Islanders from becoming the first NHL team to advance to the second round as Alex Ovechkin’s two-goal performance helped them rally for a 3-2 win in Game 4 of this best-of-seven series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

“I thought it came too easy in the first for us,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “Therefore, we didn’t have enough skin in the game. Not to take anything away from the way they played. They played a complete game. We didn’t respond well enough.”

The Capitals certainly reacted to coach Todd Reirden yelling the riot act during a timeout after Mathew Barzal gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead at 9:16 of the first period.

From there, the Capitals were the more physical team, using their forecheck to spend long stretches in the offensive zone and wear down the Islanders, who were held to six shots in the third period.

“They were playing really fast after their timeout,” said Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who deflected down defenseman Scott Mayfield’s shot from the right point to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 3:50 of the first period. “We just could have played with a little more composure, a little more urgency. I know myself, first, could have done more and that’s not a good feeling.”

The Islanders went 0-for-5 on the power play, albeit with 12 shots, leaving them 1-for-19 in the series. The Capitals went 1-for-5 on the power play with Barzal penalized twice in the opening 3:46 of the second period.

Game 5 will be Thursday.

“One of those finishing games is the hardest games to finish,” defenseman Nick Leddy said. “As Barry says, we’ve got to be more determined than them, be more determined than their desperation.”

“Those 50-50 pucks, we just didn’t come out with it enough to turn the tide,” captain Anders Lee said. “It put us behind. I don’t think we executed as well as we needed to tonight. We need to gain some of that possession back and try to create something.”

Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves while Braden Holtby stopped 24 shots for the Capitals.

The biggest adjustment for the Capitals, though, was prioritizing puck possession over launching shots on Varlamov.

“I think we just stopped thinking about Corsi, whatever that stat is, and just tried to play fun hockey,” said Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who scored for the second straight game as he maneuvered around defenseman Adam Pelech and to the crease to bring the Capitals within 2-1 at 3:35 of the second period with the teams skating four-on-four.

“Maybe I don’t understand hockey but that’s how we’re supposed to play. It’s not about 1,000 shots. It’s about possession. It’s about wearing them down and it’s about joy and having fun.”

Ovechkin, who also scored two goals in the Islanders’ 5-2 win in Game 2, gave the Capitals their first lead of the game, 3-2, at 3:40 of the third period, keeping the puck on a two-on-one rush and rifling a shot high on Varlamov from the right circle.

Ovechkin’s power-play blast from the left had tied the game at 2-2 at 5:29.

The Islanders held a 16-1 edge in chances, including shots on net, blocked shots and missed shots, through the opening 6:22 and the Capitals’ lone shot came shorthanded.

“We talked about this being the toughest game to win,” Lee said. “We’ve just got to regroup and go back at them. We’ve put ourselves in a phenomenal position. Now, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”

New York Sports