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Isles dominate in series-opening win over Capitals

Josh Bailey of the New York Islanders celebrates

Josh Bailey of the New York Islanders celebrates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 15, 2015 in Washington. Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

WASHINGTON - If there's a blueprint for success in this series, the Islanders followed it to the last detail in Game 1.

They scored quickly and took advantage of a shaky Braden Holtby. They shook off another late-period goal to control long stretches of the second period. And they took away the Capitals' rink-stretching ability with a disruptive forecheck.

It all added up to a masterly 4-1 Stanley Cup playoff series opening win for the Islanders, with Brock Nelson scoring first and last and Ryan Strome scoring the eventual winner early in the second.

Young guys, veterans, first line, fourth line -- there was precious little difference for the Isles no matter who was on the ice. They hounded the Caps, who looked nervous from the outset and mustered only 25 shots on Jaroslav Halak.

"We had some good sticks tonight and that's obviously a focus of our game," said Kyle Okposo, who set up Josh Bailey in close for the 3-1 lead with 9:24 left in the second after a dominating cycle by No. 21. "They have a lot of guys who like to wheel and score off the rush, so we were able to disrupt that a bit."

Even without Travis Hamonic, the Isles' ice-time leader among defensemen this season out with a suspected left knee injury, the Islanders' defense was stout in the face of Alex Ovechkin and the Caps' group of big forwards. Ovechkin had eight of the Caps' 25 shots, but the only threatening one was a wrister that Halak snared with 6:03 left in a 3-1 game.

The Islanders only gave the Caps two power plays and shut down both. Jack Capuano preferred to match Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk against Ovechkin, but all six defensemen were solid against No. 8. Caps coach Barry Trotz was mixing and matching his lines from just about midway through the first period to try and get his team going.

"Our guys played hard," Capuano said. "When you play against elite players, you want to be smart and controlled. Brian [Strait] was good, Calvin [de Haan] had a good game. All of them played extremely well."

And it was the young guys who got it going. Nelson scored on a seemingly straightforward wrist shot from the right side at 6:06 of the first on just the Isles' second shot of the game. Holtby had a clean look but missed it under his glove, providing just the start the Isles wanted.

But they did not finish the first the way they wanted. Halak went to play a dump-in but hesitated as the puck slowly crawled into the trapezoid, and that allowed Brooks Laich to intercede. The puck went out to Marcus Johansson, who beat Halak on a wrist shot with 56.3 seconds left.

"We barely talked about it," John Tavares said. "We liked the way we played the first and we just wanted to keep it going."

Off a Caps icing and an offensive-zone draw, they did. Tavares cleanly beat Michael Latta and Strome walked onto a wrister that zipped past Holtby at 3:50 of the second for a lead the Islanders would not relinquish.

Bailey's extra-effort goal from in close, a swipe while falling down that sent the puck off Holtby, the post, Holtby again and barely over the line, sent the Isles to the third up by two.

And they didn't sit back, putting the first six shots of the third on the Caps' net to steal the thunder. Nelson capped the win with an empty-netter with 1:19 left.

"Any time you're able to take the first one you want to build on it," Tavares said. "It was a good start for us. Now it's on to Game 2."

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