Caps aim to even series with Isles

( – The Washington Capitals hope to avoid falling in an 0-2
hole on home ice when they battle the New York Islanders on Friday in Game 2
of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The Islanders grabbed the early lead in this best-of-seven series between
Metropolitan Division rivals, taking a 4-1 decision Wednesday at the Verizon

Washington aims to bounce back from the lackluster effort and even the series
before the venue changes to Long Island for Games 3 and 4. The third meeting
is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum, a building the Islanders
are leaving behind after this season as they pick up stakes and move to the
Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Of course, the Isles would love to leave Long Island on a high note. The club
hasn’t won a playoff series since the 1993 postseason, when it began a run to
the conference finals with an opening-round win over the Capitals. New York
won that series in six games and this season’s encounter marks the first
playoff meeting between the clubs since that matchup over two decades ago.

The Capitals, meanwhile, are hoping to get past the conference quarterfinals
for the first time since 2012. They lost to the New York Rangers in the
opening round two years ago before missing the postseason in 2014.
Washington’s star forward Alex Ovechkin, of course, has never made it past the
second round and neither has head coach Barry Trotz, who was the longtime
bench boss in Nashville before getting let go last season and joining the

Jaroslav Halak stopped 24 shots and Brock Nelson picked up his first two
career playoff goals to help the Isles subdue the Capitals in Game 1.

Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist while Ryan Strome provided the other
tally for the Islanders, who posted their first win in a playoff opener since

“Our guys played hard,” Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. “When you play
against elite players, you want to be smart and controlled. All of them played
extremely well.”

The score was tied at 1-1 after 20 minutes, but Strome put the visitors ahead
for good less than four minutes into the second period. Strome became the
first Islander to record a game-winning goal in his playoff debut since Clark
Gillies in 1975

Bailey added to the lead later in the second and Nelson sealed the victory
with his second tally of the game by scoring into an empty net.

Marcus Johansson supplied the lone offense for the Capitals, while Braden
Holtby surrendered three goals on 26 shots in defeat.

“I do not think we were skating the way we need to against a team that can
skate pretty good,” Trotz said. “We weren’t as sharp as we need to be. We need
to be a lot sharper. That goes right through the whole lineup. From our top
guys to our role players, there were not too many sharp guys.”

Washington will shoot for a better effort tonight and does own a 9-6 record
all-time in Game 2 when dropping the opening test of the series.

The Isles won the opener despite playing without defenseman Travis Hamonic,
who led the blue line in average ice time during the regular season. Hamonic
has missed two straight games dating back to the final tilt of the regular
season and is questionable for Game 2 with a lower-body injury.

The Caps and Isles each won two games during four meetings in 2014-15 and
three of the contests went beyond regulation.

New York has won five of its six all-time playoff series against Washington.