Wednesday's roundup: Young forwards lift Islanders
Washington — Ryan Strome is 21 years old, Brock Nelson is 23, and Josh Bailey is 25. Entering Wednesday night, the trio of New York Islanders forwards owned these combined career NHL playoff numbers: seven games, zero goals.
So much for the supposed importance of postseason experience.
Nelson scored twice, Strome and Bailey added a goal each, Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves against a familiar foe, and the Islanders beat Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals 4-1 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Bailey (2008), Nelson (2010) and Strome (2011) were all first-round draft picks by New York, far-less-heralded than their teammate who went No. 1 overall in 2009, John Tavares, who finished second in the league in points this season. But while Tavares did have an assist, it was that other trio that made the biggest impact in the series opener.
"I liked their composure, the way they held their emotions in check, and they came up big for us tonight," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "They skated. And, you know, they played with confidence and poise. And they've done that all year."
Said Bailey, who added an assist: "There might have been question marks outside of the dressing room. I think us guys in here believe in one another, believe in what we have, and I think that tonight was an example of that."
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is at Washington on Friday night. The Capitals will need to figure out a way to slow down New York's transition offense, avoid lengthy lulls, and get more from Ovechkin. The three-time NHL MVP scored 53 goals this season to lead the league for the third year in a row and fifth time overall, but all eight of his shots Wednesday were turned aside.
"We're going to have to be a lot sharper. That goes right through the whole lineup," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I thought from our top guys to our role players, there wasn't too many sharp guys."
Aside from one bad blip — when he lost the puck behind his net, leading to Marcus Johansson's goal in the final minute of the first period — Halak was mostly superb after struggling late in the regular season.
On Wednesday, Bailey said, "Any time they were able to get some quality chances, (Halak) was there to shut the door."
There's real history between this goalie and this opponent. Halak stymied Ovechkin and the rest of his Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals while leading eighth-seeded Montreal to a first-round upset in the 2010 playoffs. Last season, Washington acquired Halak at the trade deadline, but he wasn't able to get them into the postseason.
Indeed, neither of these teams qualified for the playoffs a year ago. The Capitals made it six straight seasons prior to that, although they failed to get past the second round in that span.
And this was not the return they envisioned.
"Our desperation level could be a little bit better than it was tonight," Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "They looked like they had a little more urgency than we did."
The Islanders were aggressive on the penalty kill, holding the Capitals' NHL-best power play to three shots and no goals during two opportunities.
There were plenty of problems for Washington, starting with a poor pass by Troy Brouwer about six minutes into the game, a turnover that led to Nelson — who would later add an empty-netter with 79 seconds left — taking a pass from Bailey and putting a wrister past Braden Holtby.
"That's not the way we want to start the series — or the game," Brouwer said.
Trotz referred to that mistake as trying to make an "85-foot pass instead of the 7- or 8-foot pass."
"Some of that is trying to make something happen right away, where sometimes your best option is to play small ball, if you will," Trotz said. "Just chip away and chip away and chip away and chip away, instead of swing for the fences all the time."
(At) Montreal 4, Ottawa 3: Brian Flynn scored a tie-breaking goal late in the second period and the Canadiens held on in a wild opening game. Flynn also had two assists for the first three-point game of his career.
Tomas Plekanec and Torrey Mitchell scored 15 seconds apart in a frenetic second period that saw five players get goals in less than five minutes. Lars Eller scored short-handed as part of the barrage.
Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris got power-play goals in the middle period for the Senators. Milan Michalek was credited with the game's first goal, which Montreal's Andre Markov tipped into his own net 12 minutes in.
Canadiens star defenseman P.K. Subban was given a five-minute major and game misconduct after slashing Ottawa rookie Mark Stone in the wrist midway through the second period.
Game 2 is Friday night
Chicago 4, (at) Nashville 3 (2OT): Duncan Keith scored at 7:49 of double overtime, and the Blackhawks rallied from a three-goal deficit after the first period. The Blackhawks finished only two points back of Nashville in the Central Division, and they grabbed home-ice advantage back despite benching Corey Crawford after the first period. Scott Darling stopped every subsequent shot, making 42 saves in his postseason debut as Nashville took a franchise-record 54 shots.
Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews each scored for Chicago. Patrick Kane also had two assists in his return after missing 21 games with a broken collarbone.
Colin Wilson scored twice and Viktor Stalberg had a goal, all in the first period for the Predators.
Game 2 is Friday night in Nashville.
Calgary 2, (at) Vancouver 1: Defenseman Kris Russell scored with just under 30 seconds remaining in the third period. David Jones also scored for the Flames, who were down 1-0 entering the third period. Jonas Hiller stopped 29 shots in the Flames' first playoff game since 2009.
Bo Horvat opening the scoring for Vancouver midway in the second period. Jannik Hansen and Alexander Edler assisted on the play.
Vancouver hosts Game 2 on Friday night.
Russell's shot from the point found its way through traffic after a dominant shift by the Flames that had the Canucks hemmed in deep.
Eddie Lack made 28 saves for Vancouver, which is back in the postseason after missing out last spring for the first time in six years.