Facing the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals on Saturday afternoon was a litmus test for the Islanders.
It looked as though they had passed with flying colors, before the Capitals waltzed right back into the game with four goals in a span of 14:57 of the third period — two from Alex Ovechkin to complete a hat trick — to take a 6-4 victory at the Coliseum.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz, who was head coach of the Capitals from 2014 through the 2018 Stanley Cup season, described Washington as the “class of the East.” And the Islanders skated right with them — until the third period.
Despite scoring four straight goals following Ovechkin’s tally in the first period, which tied him with Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, the Islanders let the game get away from them.
The teams came out of the first period neck-and-neck in all areas, but the scoreboard. The face-offs were split 50-50, and each team posted 11 shots. At 10:22 of the first, Ovechkin put away career goal No. 690, lifting the Capitals to a 1-0 lead.
The Islanders answered with two goals in the span of 2:28. After the Capitals challenged for offsides, Brock Nelson’s one-timer at 13:11 was upheld and knotted the score at 13:11 of the first. Then, Casey Cizikas seemingly was looking to make a pass before the puck deflected off of Washington’s Radko Gudas and into the back of the net for a 2-1 Islanders advantage.
Capitals winger Brendan Leipsic was sent to the box for roughing Noah Dobson at 8:27 of the second, allowing the Islanders to register their first power-play goal in their past 25 attempts. Jordan Eberle scored (his fourth goal in the past six games) off a backhander at 9:31 for a 3-1 lead.
Toward the end of the middle frame, Devon Toews made it 4-1 on a give-and-go with Leo Komarov.
Just 2:33 into the final period, Carl Hagelin cut the Islanders’ lead in half after batting home a feed from Nick Jenson. Washington continued to hit a new gear of urgency, making it a one-goal game at 5:18 on another Ovechkin goal, which moved him past Lemieux into a tie with Steve Yzerman for ninth place all-time with 692 goals. Wilson then got a stick on a shot from Dmitry Orlov to knot the game at four with 5:28 left in regulation.
Jakub Vrana made it 5-4 at 17:30 of the third before Ovechkin completed his hat trick with an empty netter as time expired.