Joel Ward (c.) and the Capitals can jump for joy as his goal breaks a 1-1 tie and eventually sends Washington to the Eastern Conference semifinals and ends the Islanders season.
WASHINGTON – She refused to let her voice be heard Saturday in Uniondale, but the fat lady has finally sung on the Islanders season along with hockey at Nassau Coliseum.
The Isles fell, 2-1, in the decisive Game 7 to the Capitals at Verizon Center after one of their more miserable offensive performances of the year. They still have not won a playoff series since 1993. The Caps, meanwhile, earned the right to face the Rangers in the second round after rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov won it with a 7:18 to play.
The Isles were completely outplayed through the first two periods, but only trailed 1-0 after 40 minutes. Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in the first two frames, but finally allowed a Capitals score with 1:25 to play in the second. The Isles goaltender made the initial stop on a Brooks Orpik slap shot from the point, but Joel Ward managed to slam the loose puck through Halak’s five-hole at the goalmouth to put Washington ahead 1-0. Johnny Boychuk, who had fallen over during the sequence, wasn’t there to throw a body on Ward. It was only the second time in seven games that Caps scored the first goal.
Meanwhile, the Isles struggled to find any offense at all, with just seven shots on goal and 20 shot attempts through the first 40 minutes. The Capitals fired 21 shots on goal and had 47 attempts.
Then, on just their ninth shot of the game, the Isles tied it. Frans Nielsen sped through the slot and flipped a weak attempt through two Washington defensemen. Goaltender Braden Holtby seemed to have an easy save, but let the puck trickle through his five-hole, tying the score at 3:13 of the third period. The uncharacteristic gaffe by Holtby gave Nielsen his first goal of the postseason.
Washington nearly tied it moments later when a bad bounce off the boards caromed to Jay Beagle alone in front. But Halak was there with a spectacular save that deflected off his right pad and blocker to momentarily preserve the stalemate.
With 7:18 to play, Kuznetsov spun off the wall and left Nilsen in the dust in the Islanders zone. A defensive breakdown by the Isles allowed Kuznetsov ample time to skate through the slot, patiently wait out Halak and roof the puck to put Washington ahead 2-1.
The Isles were given their last gasp of air with 2:54 to play when John Carlson took a roughing penalty, the first penalty of the game. But despite the golden opportunity, the Caps held the line. The Isles finished a putrid 0-for-14 in the series on the man advantage.
Halak was pulled with just over a minute remaining, but the Isles couldn’t muster a final shot on Holtby. They managed just 11 shots on goal for the entire contest.
No matter which team took Monday’s winner-take-all Game 7, the agony of the losing franchise was going to continue. Entering Monday night, the Islanders hadn’t won a playoff series since 1993. Since that time, 27 NHL teams have won at least one round. The Capitals, meanwhile, had gone to a Game 7 in eight of their last 10 playoff series and were 1-4 in Game 7’s played at Verizon Center since 2008. One way or another, one team’s futility would persist. Unfortunately for the Isles, their loss also meant the end to hockey at the Coliseum before the franchise moves to Brooklyn next year.
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