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Islanders fall to rallying Capitals 4-3 with series now tied

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Alex Ovechkin scores as the Capitals come back to defeat the Isles.Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin scores as the Capitals come back to defeat the Isles.

CAPITALS 4, ISLANDERS 3

WASHINGTON – The Islanders coughed up two separate two-goal leads and fell, 4-3, to the Capitals at Verizon Center, letting a golden opportunity to come home with a 2-0 series lead slip through their fingers. Washington’s Jason Chimera supplied the game-winning goal at 7:37 of the third period to give the Caps their third unanswered goal and first lead of the game.

The series, now tied 1-1, shifts to Long Island where Nassau Coliseum hosts Game 3 Sunday at noon.

Just like Wednesday night’s Game 1, it was the Isles that struck first. Cal Clutterbuck converted on a 2-on-1 rush with Casey Cizikas with a wrister past goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Less than an hour before puck drop, the Capitals announced that Grubauer would be getting the start in net. Braden Holtby, who played in a league-high 73 games for Washington during the season, is officially listed as day-to-day with an illness. That left Grubauer to make his postseason debut after starting in just one game during the regular season, a 3-2 shootout win over the Ducks on Feb. 6. It was only the 21st NHL start of the 25-year-old’s career. He played 49 games for the Hershey Bears of the AHL, winning 27 of them and posting a .921 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average. The Clutterbuck goal was the Isles’ second shot of the contest.

Though they took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Isles spent a great deal of the first period on defense. The Caps had 31 attempts to the Isles 13, but the Isles made up for it with 15 blocked shots.

The Capitals dominated the second period in nearly every area but the score. Ryan Strome scored his second goal of the series at 3:24 with a cannon one-timer from the slot. The Verizon Center, which had been dead quiet for most of the night, erupted when Karl Alzner scored at 11:26. Kyle Okposo quieted the crowd with a perfectly placed snap shot from the right face-off dot at 14:09 to make it 3-1, but Alex Ovechkin’s rebound at 16:09 brought them back to life. Fresh off his sixth career 50-goal season and his fifth Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy, Ovechkin could cause havoc for the Isles if he gets going. Nicklas Backstrom, the NHL’s assist leader, picked up two helpers in the period.

Kyle Okposo celebrates with his teammates after scoring in the second period.Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

Kyle Okposo celebrates with his teammates after scoring in the second period.

Jack Capuano used his timeout with 2:51 to play in an attempt to calm his players, who spent what felt like the entire second period in the defensive zone.

A Strome slashing penalty put the Caps’ top ranked power play on the ice at 2:50 of the third period and for the first time in the series, Washington collected. Moments after Brian Strait blocked an Ovechkin one-timer, Backstrom tied the game, 3-3, with his first goal since Feb. 19. The Verizon Center, which was a library in the first period, became deafening.

“No matter how good your sticks are, how good your reads are, it’s impossible to defend them (on the power play) when you give them time and space,” Clutterbuck said. “They’re good at reading coverage and putting the puck where you’re not. The less time you give them, the better the chance you have.”

The Isles scrambled for chances after Chimera’s tally, but Grubauer stood tall in net.

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