Capitals’ Evgeny Kuznetsov celebrates as fans at the Verizon Center go wild during Washington’s 5-1 win over the Islanders in Game 5.
WASHINGTON – Nassau Coliseum is officially on life support.
The Islanders played their worst game of the series, gave up five unanswered goals, and were dominated by the Capitals Thursday night, losing 5-1 in Game 5 at Verizon Center. Now up 3-2 in the series, Washington can end the Isles season and shut the doors on Coliseum hockey for good with another victory.
Despite being manhandled for most of the first two periods, the Isles only trailed 2-1 during the second intermission. But the wheels fell off in the third. The Caps scored three times in the opening nine minutes, beginning with a Brooks Laich rebound and followed by an Evgeny Kuznetsov partial breakaway and a softie by Jason Chimera. Jaroslav Halak was pulled with 11 minutes remaining in regulation. The Washington crowd chanted, “We Are Louder!” wildly, a direct challenge to the Coliseum fans that will have to bring their team back from embarrassment in Saturday’s Game 6.
Islanders’ Anders Lee tangles with Tom Wilson in the first period. Wilson put a hit on Lubomir Visnovsky.
Adding to the ugliness was an injury to Calvin de Haan, who took a big hit from Troy Brouwer in the third. He did not return. Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck were also tossed in the third period with game misconducts.
Tempers flared early in the contest when Anders Lee dropped the gloves and fought Tom Wilson. Wilson was an obvious target for the Isles after his brutal hit on Lubomir Visnovsky in Game 4 gave the veteran defenseman a suspected concussion. Just 26 seconds after the scrap, Josh Bailey sniped a nifty pass from John Tavares past Braden Holtby to put the Isles up 1-0 at 5:48. But Washington took over from there.
Kuznetsov evened things at 9:05 after winning a faceoff draw in the Islander zone and immediately retreating behind the net. de Haan blocked a Karl Alzner attempt, but couldn’t manage to clear the crease. Four Isles players converged, but the puck went airborne during the scrum. Waiting at the far post was Kuznetsov, who batted the puck in from midair past Jaroslav Halak.
Islanders center John Tavares (l.) fights for the puck with Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom as Kyle Okposo hits the ice.
Brouwer spoiled what was otherwise an excellent second period for Halak in net including spectacular stops on Jay Beagle and Kuznetsov. A failed clear by de Haan led to a sustained shift by Washington and a Brouwer chance on the doorstep. Halak made the initial save, but Brouwer stuck with it, curled around the net and fed Alzner for a one-timer. Halak couldn’t get post to post in time for the Alzner blast and the Caps took a 2-1 lead at 10:31.
The Isles were given their 11th power play of the series on a high-sticking penalty by Kuznetsov at 12:25, but remain scoreless on the man advantage. The Caps dominated the rest of the period with a 18-8 shots on goal advantage and sustained zone time to tire the Isles already depleted defensive corps. Lee and de Haan were particularly brutal in the middle frame.
With Visnovsky out of the lineup, Jack Capuano shook things up. Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) returned for his first game since Feb. 29 and centered between Nikolay Kulemin and Ryan Strome. Brock Nelson, who had two goals in the opening game of the series, was a healthy scratch. Griffin Reinhart made his playoff debut and replaced Visnovsky at the blue line. But neither change provided a spark.
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