WASHINGTON — On a night when the Islanders killed off all five Capitals power plays and kept Alex Ovechkin and the other Washington stars off the board, you would think the Isles could have earned a point or two.
But their own offense went cold in a 2-1 loss to the Caps, leaving the Islanders feeling they improved over their opening-night performance against the Rangers but are still 0-2-0 to start the season.
They host the Ducks on Sunday in their home opener to try and find some flow on offense after putting just 22 shots on Braden Holtby and none of them threatening in the final period when the Isles trailed by a goal.
“I thought we were really good, gave them only 21 shots at even strength, the PK was good,” coach Jack Capuano said. “We’ve got to find a way to score here. We didn’t get going until the third period (on Thursday) and we got one here and then couldn’t find it.”
Ryan Strome had the goal, a centering feed that banked off Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik’s skate and past Holtby at 13:49 of the first to tie the game, answering Daniel Winnik’s deflection past Thomas Greiss 1:51 earlier.
Winnik, Washington’s fourth-line left wing, put the Caps ahead at 7:46 of the second on an unexpected breakaway — Travis Hamonic had Winnik defended but Hamonic lost an edge, sending Winnik in alone to beat Greiss.
And that was it. The Islanders got one more power play after that while the Caps had five total, including a third minor to Isles rookie Mathew Barzal with 6:09 to play. Barzal made an inauspicious debut, taking a slashing penalty on the back check on his first NHL shift at 3:03 of the opening period and then, after the Isles killed off the minor, instantly went back to the box on a strange call.
He hadn’t yet exited the penalty box when he played the puck with his skates still off the ice — that’s called interference by the NHL rule book, a rarely seen infraction. Hamonic had to explain the call as Barzal, who had his parents and sister in Verizon Center, skated back to the box, bewildered.
“You just have to laugh it off,” John Tavares said. “It’s his first game, there’s nerves, there’s excitement. We killed them off and I thought we got some momentum from that.”
Tavares was held without a point for the second straight game and his line, with Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, struggled to get anything going. Capuano moved Josh Bailey into Chimera’s spot late but that still didn’t produce much.
The lack of offense was doubly frustrating after the Isles gave Ovechkin and the high-end Caps offense very little. Washington had seven total shots on its five power plays, with Greiss (26 saves) sharp and the penalty killers equally adept.
But after Strome’s goal, which came off a smart passing play from Johnny Boychuk to Brock Nelson and across to Strome, the Islanders only had occasional stretches of sustained pressure.
“We had chances, we just weren’t able to bury them,” Tavares said. “We’ve got another chance tomorrow night in front of our fans, so we just move on.”
Starting in an 0-3-0 hole would certainly be cause for alarm. No one is stressing out this start, the Isles’ first 0-2-0 skid to open a season since 2006-07.
“We play a certain style and I thought we played to our identity tonight,” Capuano said. “There’s going to be a lot more positive than negative when we review the video from this game. We just have to stick with it.”