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Islanders snatch home ice from Capitals with Game 1 win

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Josh Bailey and the Islanders have reason to celebrate after winning Game 1 of their opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup over the Capitals.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Josh Bailey and the Islanders have reason to celebrate after winning Game 1 of their opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup over the Capitals.

Bailey goes down to one knee to put the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.Alex Brandon/AP

Bailey goes down to one knee to put the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.

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  • Josh Bailey and the Islanders have reason to celebrate after winning Game 1 of their opening round Stanley Cup playoffs matchup over the Capitals.
  • Bailey goes down to one knee to put the puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.

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ISLANDERS 4, CAPITALS 1

WASHINGTON – Who needs home ice advantage anyway?

After coughing up two leads and home ice on the last day of the regular season, the Islanders seized it back from the Capitals at Verizon Center on Wednesday night with a huge 4-1 win over Washington in their first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Josh Bailey all scored the first goals of their brief playoff careers.

Islanders’ John Tavares (r.) loses his stick as he goes after Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.Alex Brandon/AP

Islanders’ John Tavares (r.) loses his stick as he goes after Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Hours before the game, several Isles players recalled their playoff series in 2013, when they entered inexperienced and wide-eyed and were smoked by the Penguins, 5-0, in Pittsburgh. But Wednesday night in Washington was a different story.

The Isles took the lead at 6:06 of the first period when Nelson scored with a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Caps goaltender Brayden Holtby short, glove side. The Capitals managed to tie it with 56 seconds to play in the period on a Marcus Johansson strike from the right circle. The sequence began when Isles goaltender Jaroslav Halak misplayed the puck behind the net and surrendered the puck to Brooks Laich. The Isles have now allowed goals in the final minute of a period in four consecutive games.

But rather than roll over in the second period, the Isles kept coming. Strome scored in his playoff debut off a faceoff win by John Tavares to make it 2-1 at 3:50. A great shift by Kyle Okposo helped set up Bailey’s goal at 10:36 to put the Isles up 3-1 just over halfway through the game.

Despite the absence of Travis Hamonic, the Isles played quite brilliantly on defense, limiting Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals offense to a limited number of Grade-A chances. Several momentous blocked shots by Brian Strait, Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas also helped keep Washington off the board. The largely unheralded Strait played one of his best games of the season on the blue line.

One of the biggest moments in the game came at 7:47 of the third period when Washington went on their second power play of the night. But the Isles and their 26th ranked penalty kill stifled the league’s best man advantage with several blocked shots and a huge save by Halak on Ovechkin. Nelson added his second of the night with an empty-netter with 1:19 to play.

Game 2 of the series will be played on Friday, when the Isles will seek to take a commanding 2-0 lead before heading home to Nassau Coliseum. Unlike 2013, they are no longer just happy to be in the postseason. They believe they are capable of far more.

“(The 2013 playoffs) was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey and the same thing goes for a lot of the other guys that have been with us for a while,” Okposo said Wednesday morning. “We’re excited to be back here, but we have a different team. Our goals aren’t the same. We’re trying to win.”

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