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Islanders force Game 7 with 3-1 win over Caps at Coliseum

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Facing elimination, the Islanders respond in front of their home crowd with a 3-1 win over the Capitals in Game 6.Ken Goldfield/Ken Goldfield

Facing elimination, the Islanders respond in front of their home crowd with a 3-1 win over the Capitals in Game 6.

ISLANDERS 3, CAPITALS 1

Hold off on those obituaries, the Islanders aren’t dead yet.

Nikolay Kulemin’s game-winning goal at 10:33 of the third period gave the Islanders a 3-1 win over the Capitals in Uniondale and forced a winner-take-all Game 7 in Washington on Monday.

A spectacular individual effort by the John Tavares drew two defenders in the offensive zone and a scoring chance against goaltender Braden Holtby. Tavares took a big hit against the boards from Alex Ovechkin and didn’t get a call, but the puck caromed out to Nick Leddy, who found Nikolay Kulemin cutting through the middle of the ice. Kulemin collected the puck and scored, sending the Coliseum into frenzy on what could have been the last game played in Uniondale.

Matt Martin gets denied in front of goal by Capitals keeper Branden Holtby.Ken Goldfield/Ken Goldfield

Matt Martin gets denied in front of goal by Capitals keeper Branden Holtby.

Washington nearly tied it with 5:33 to play, but Jay Beagle’s attempt hit the crossbar. Cal Clutterbuck scored with 52.6 seconds to play on an empty net to put the game away.

For the fifth time in the series, the Isles scored first. Tavares notched his second goal of the playoffs with a nifty move around John Carlson in the slot and a wrister through a Brock Nelson screen at 6:56 of the first period. But the Isles let Washington crawl back into the game with three penalties in the final seven minutes of the period. The much maligned Islander penalty kill continued it’s terrific work in the series by killing off the first two penalties by Brian Strait and Kulemin. Quietly, a key moment in the game came near the end of the second kill, when Cal Clutterbuck tried an ill-advised stretch pass to Kulemin out of the box that went for an icing. Jack Capuano was forced to use his timeout to rest the killers with 1:23 to play in the first.

Then, with 32.6 seconds to play in the period, Tavares was whistled for a weak slashing call on Evgeny Kuznetsov. The inevitable Capitals equalizer came with 4.3 ticks on the clock on a Carlson wrister through traffic. Jaroslav Halak played brilliantly in the period, but allowed his first blemish with under a minute to play once again.

The Isles played a stronger second period, outshooting the Caps 17-10, but couldn’t put another goal on the board. They came perilously close twice. A slap shot from Johnny Boychuk from the point caromed off of a Washington player in front of the net and squeaked through Holtby, but Carlson was there to sweep the puck from the crease. Minutes later, Mikhail Grabovski fired from the high slot and hit Holtby up high. The puck rolled over the Washington goaltender, bounced toward the goal line, hit a snow patch near the left post and made a left turn, missing the net by inches. Holtby then redeemed himself after those close calls with a terrific save on Kulemin. Halak turned away all 10 of the Caps’ shots, with a particularly spectacular stop on Kuznetsov in close.

Power play woes continued for the Islanders, who failed to challenge Holtby with a single shot on their one chance on the man advantage. The power play is a putrid 0-for-13 for the series.

Decimated by injuries to Travis Hamonic (apparent knee injury), Lubomir Visnovsky (suspected concussion) and Calvin de Haan (undisclosed) at the blue line, Capuano played the inexperienced Matt Donovan and Scott Mayfield on defense. Donovan was hit with a 10-minute misconduct penalty after a strange sequence with the referees late in the second period.

Brock Nelson also returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 5. Colin McDonald played for the first time since April 7. Anders Lee was a healthy scratch.

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