3 Keys: Capitals vs. Islanders, Game 3 of Eastern First Round


No. 3 Capitals vs. No. 6 Islanders


New York leads best-of-7 series, 2-0

The Washington Capitals will try to avoid a third straight loss to the New York Islanders in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday.

The Capitals have scored first in each of the first two games but have been outscored 5-0 in the third period.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to show everyone what we are made of,” Washington forward Carl Hagelin said. “We can’t let those lapses come, especially not two games in a row. We’ve played enough hockey in this locker room that we know that playoffs is a different breed.”

Teams that lose the first three games are 4-190 (2.1 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL series.

Capitals coach Todd Reirden said center Nicklas Backstrom, who was in the NHL concussion protocol after Game 1 and did not play in Game 2 on Friday, skated at the end of practice Saturday. “We’ll see how everyone’s doing tomorrow morning,” Reirden said.

Here are 3 keys to Game 3:


1. Must-win mentality

Their season won’t end with a loss, but the Capitals must play with the mentality that it would. They have been outplayed late in games, particularly a stretch in Game 2 when they spent about three minutes in their own end before Cal Clutterbuck gave the Islanders a two-goal lead in a 5-2 win in Toronto, the Eastern hub city.

“As of right now, I don’t think we’ve made it extremely hard for the Islanders to get wins against us,” Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said Saturday. “Each time that’s happened, I think we’ll come together a little tighter. Just really stick to our game plan and play that way for a full 60 (minutes). We haven’t showed them that yet this series, and tomorrow is as good as ever to get going there.”


2. Not chasing game

The Islanders have had to come back in each game and fell behind 56 seconds into Game 2.

“I think we want to have some better starts,” captain Anders Lee said. “It’s not going to get easier here; they’re going to bring their best, even better than they have the first two games. It’s a tough task ahead. We have to continue to raise our level and expect more from ourselves and continue to build off what we’ve established here in this series.”


3. Establishing forecheck

Washington forward Alex Ovechkin scored his first two goals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday, both at even strength, but the Capitals still couldn’t muster a consistent attack 5-on-5, especially in the third period. They’ll need to figure out how to break through against New York’s defense Sunday.

“Obviously we were able to score a couple of 5-on-5 goals last game, and we did make a move in the right direction in a few areas offensively,” Reirden said. “But I think it’s still obviously not where it needs to be and can be, given the group that we have.

“To me, it starts off the importance of puck management and putting the puck behind the opposition’s defense for a full game. We start to do it, we’ve done it in both the first periods of Game 1 and Game 2, we’re just not able to do it for 60 minutes.”


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson

Jakub VranaLars Eller — T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin — Travis BoydIlya Kovalchuk

Richard PanikNic DowdGarnet Hathaway

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson

Brenden DillonDmitry Orlov

Jonas SiegenthalerNick Jensen

Braden Holtby

Vitek Vanecek

Scratched: Philippe Maillet, Beck Malenstyn, Connor McMichael, Brian Pinho, Daniel Sprong, Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Radko Gudas, Tyler Lewington, Pheonix Copley

Unfit to play: Nicklas Backstrom


Islanders projected lineup

Anders Lee — Mathew BarzalJordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey

Derick BrassardJean-Gabriel PageauLeo Komarov

Matt MartinCasey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Adam PelechRyan Pulock

Devon ToewsScott Mayfield

Nick LeddyAndy Greene

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andrew Ladd, Sebastian Aho, Johnny Boychuk, Noah Dobson, Thomas Hickey, Christopher Gibson

Unfit to play: None 

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