CAPITALS 3, Islanders 2 (OT) – Isles succumb to late rally, as Ovechkin's OT winner caps victory for host Capitals

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With boos cascading throughout the Verizon Center through the first 56 minutes of Tuesday evening’s tilt in D.C., the Islanders held what looked to be an insurmountable 2-0 lead over the home-standing Capitals. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov had stopped the first 30 shots he had faced, and his Islander mates had completely frustrated its opposition, who continue to be on the outside looking in at one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.

But the Capitals, a perennial Stanley Cup contender over the past couple of seasons, never said die. They simply rode the coattails of a key offseason acquisition and raced past the proverbial finish line behind its thoroughbred.

Troy Brouwer, acquired by the Capitals at last year’s NHL Entry Draft for a first round pick, used his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame and positioned himself to the right of Nabokov. He scored twice – both from that very spot – in the game’s final 3:29, including a game-tying goal with 25.5 seconds remaining. Teammate Alexander Ovechkin would complete the comeback just 1:35 into overtime, as his twisted wrister beat Nabokov five-hole, as the Capitals stunned the Islanders, 3-2.

Ovechkin’s goal, his 26th of the season, came nearly a year-to-the-date of last season’s overtime winner against the Islanders. Coincidentally, Capitals forward Brooks Laich’s last-minute goal sent that game into overtime as well.

The 26-year-old from Moscow capitalized on a costly miscue by Islanders forward Josh Bailey in the extra session. Skating on a 3-on-2 advantage, Bailey tried to evade a Capital defender, but lost the puck in the process. Ovechkin picked up the puck, skated end-to-end, and sent the home crowd into a frenzied-state with his patented wrister.

Ovechkin’s goal was the capper, but Brouwer’s tallies began the comeback.

Brouwer’s first of the game – his 16th of the season – came on a harmless feed by teammate Mathieu Perrault, who was draped by Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic. Perrault’s cross-ice feed found the tape of Brouwer, who deflected it past a sprawling Nabokov, cutting the Caps deficit to 2-1.

The game-tying goal was a result of a Capitals face-off win by Laich. Defenseman Dennis Wideman retrieved the puck at the right point, and passed it back to Laich. Laich, a few feet above the right circle, sent a snap shot towards Nabokov. Brouwer, once again using his frame to shield net-minder, bodied through Islanders defenseman Andy McDonald – a player he outweighs by 20 pounds – and deflected the shot past a screened Nabokov.

Less than a minute earlier, with the Islanders clinging to a 2-1 lead, forwards Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner raced into the neutral zone and had their sights on an insurance tally. Unfortunately, Okposo flubbed a pass to John Tavares on his right, and turned the puck back over to the Capital defense.

With the loss, the Islanders’ fourth straight defeat on the road after they had won six of their previous seven away from the Coliseum, they remain two games under the .500 mark at 26-28-9. With 61 points, they remain eight points behind the eighth-place Capitals with 19 games remaining. The Islanders return to action on Thursday evening, as they concluded their three-game road trip in Philadelphia. The Islanders have won both meetings in Philly this season

With the win, the Capitals improve to 32-26-5, and as mentioned hold the final spot in the Eastern Conference Standings. At 69 points, they remain three points behind Southeast Division leader Florida. The Capitals continue their current five-game homestand on Friday evening, as they play host to the Devils.

Despite being outshot 13-3 in the opening period, the Islanders grabbed an early 1-0 lead just 4:14 into the first. Off a beautiful feed by new line-mate Frans Nielsen, Bailey scored his 7th of the season – his first since February 4 – on a tremendous individual effort. He deked past Capitals defender Jeff Schultz at the top of the right circle, then drove through unabated to Capital net-minder Michael Neuvirth, where he beat him with a slick backhand.

After a scoreless second period, the Islanders would add to their lead early in the third. Matt Moulson scored his team-leading 27th of the season, just 2:16 into the third, as he deflected a point shot by teammate Steve Staios. Staios, who just 24 hours earlier had thought he had been traded to Vancouver, earned his 7th assist on the season.

P.A. Parenteau added his team-leading 44th helper of the season. The last Islander to dish out 45 assists in a season was Travis Green, back in 1995-96.

The Capitals outshot the Islanders, 34-24.

On to some of the positives and negatives in the +/-

– Kyle Okposo – Okposo continued his goal scoring slump on Tuesday evening, as he has now only scored one goal in his 14 games. What made Tuesday’s effort even more alarming was his careless play with the puck. During an Islanders man advantage late in the second period, Okposo missed a feed at the point, and simply lollygagged back into his own zone to retrieve the puck. Capitals forward Jason Chimera, nine years older than Okposo, raced past the 24-year-old Islander and gave his team a short-handed opportunity. Is it time for Capuano to discipline Okposo once again and sit him next to Nino in the press box. Okposo has four years remaining in his current five-year deal.

– & + Garth Snow – Having failed to sign either P.A. Parenteau or Evgeni Nabokov before Monday afternoon’s trading deadline, Snow must be confident that both free-agents-to-be will re-up following the season. If either or both leave Long Island after July 1, Snow will once again have many questions to answer. On the other hand, trading both Mike Mottau and Brian Rolston to Boston for a pair of marginal prospects was a simple addition by subtraction. Rolston entered the season as the team’s highest salaried Islander, and clearly proved that his best NHL days are behind him. Good riddance!!!

+ David Ullstrom – Sixteen years younger than the player that he replaced (Rolston), the 6-foot-2 Ullstrom continues to show the Islander brass that a return trip to Bridgeport might be unnecessary. He chips, chases and is ready to make a play at a moment’s notice. Ullstrom, who will turn 23 in April, provided imposing spark on the Ullstrom-Bailey-Nielsen line – the best trio of the night.

+ Bridgeport Sound Tigers – After dropping a 2-1 shootout decision at Springfield on Friday evening, the Sound Tigers once again showed their resiliency in 2012 with a pair of come-from-behind victories to close out the weekend. Michael Haley scored twice and Jeremy Colliton tallied his 200th AHL point, as the Sound Tigers erased a 3-0 Providence lead and defeated the Bruins, 5-4 on Saturday evening at Webster Bank Arena. Less than 24 hours later, the Sound Tigers spotted the Albany Devils a 2-0 lead, but Aaron Ness’ tally midway through the third period capped a three-goal outburst, as the Sound Tigers defeated the Devils, 3-2. The goal, Ness’ fourth of the season, was his second of the game. With the five points over the weekend, the Sound Tigers have now collected 38 of a possible 42 points in their last 21 games (18-1-2). With 66 points, the Sound Tigers now stand tied atop the Northeast Division with the Connecticut Whale. They return to action this Friday night, with a return trip up to Albany to face the Devils.

– & + Michael Grabner – Grabner’s inability to convert on breakaways and partial breakaways is alarming. On Tuesday evening, Grabner missed on two separate occasions. With 15 goals, he now stands 19 goals behind last year’s mark. On the other hand, Grabner continues to be quite an effective penalty killer. Did Snow and the Islander brass shell out $15 million for a solid penalty killer? No!!

+ Youth on Defense – Tuesday evening gave not Islander fans, but NHL fans watch the future on the blue-line. For the Islanders, both McDonald and Hamonic logged 22:02 and 24:15 respectively, and continue to be the team’s top pairing defenseman. For the Capitals, John Carlson, Dmitri Orlov and Karl Alzner are all under the age of 25, and continue to be given valuable minutes by head coach Dale Hunter. Wouldn’t the likes of Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba, Morgan Rielly or Griffin Reinhart be a great help to AMac and Travis on Long Island?

-Dale Hunter – His presence alone deserves to be mentioned … or forgotten!!!