Caps, Isles collide in pivotal Game 5

( – The Washington Capitals return home with a chance to
claim their first lead of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals when they host
the New York Islanders in Thursday’s Game 5.

The Capitals evened this best-of-seven set at two games apiece by taking a 2-1
overtime decision in Tuesday’s battle on Long Island. Both Games 3 and 4 at
Nassau Coliseum went to an extra session. New York claimed the previous
matchup by a 2-1 count after John Tavares scored just 15 seconds into OT.

After the Islanders won the opener by a 4-1 spread, each of the next three
games have been decided by only goal.

Nicklas Backstrom assumed the role of OT hero for Washington in Game 4,
scoring at 11:09 of the extra period to deliver the crucial win for the Caps.

On the game-winning goal, Backstrom collected the puck after a faceoff in the
New York zone and protected it from Tavares along the right-wing boards as he
made his way to the point. Tavares lost his stick and couldn’t block
Backstrom’s long-range shot that beat Jaroslav Halak.

Backstrom is enjoying a tremendous start to the 2015 postseason, recording
three goals and three assists over the first four games of this series. The
centerman only managed 13 points (3G, 10A) in 29 playoff games over his
previous three trips to the postseason. He also registered the third playoff
OT goal of his career, grabbing sole possession of first place in the
Capitals’ record book.

The Swede hopes to continue his productive start to the playoffs in Thursday’s
pivotal matchup, which will set up a clinching situation for one of these
teams when the clubs meet for Saturday’s Game 6 at the Coliseum.

“It’s a better feeling to go back (home) with the series tied,” said
Backstrom, who has recorded a goal in three straight games.

Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin each recorded a goal and an assist on Tuesday,
while Braden Holtby earned the win with 36 saves.

Casey Cizikas had the lone goal for the Isles in Game 4, scoring with 12.6
seconds remaining in the first period. Halak made 28 saves in the loss.

“We didn’t generate a whole lot. We had, I think, maybe one or two chances.
You look back at the game, that’s the turning point for me,” said Islanders
coach Jack Capuano.

Neither team scored on the man advantage. Washington went 0-for-1 on the power
play, while the Caps killed off all four of New York’s chances. The Islanders
are now 0-for-10 on the power play in this series

Caps forward Tom Wilson was whistled for a pair of penalties in a span of just
over two minutes early in this second period, but his teammates bailed him out
both times.

“Maybe I owe a couple guys dinner,” Wilson said, referencing the penalty

The first of Wilson’s penalties was a charge on Isles defenseman Lubomir
Visnovsky. The vicious collision knocked Visnovsky out of the game with an
upper-body injury and his status for Game 5 is doubtful.

“We could hit a lot of guys like that too, but we stay within the rules and
play the game the right way,” said Tavares, who was one of several Islanders’
players who expressed displeasure with the Wilson hit.

New York also expects to be without defenseman Travis Hamonic for a sixth
straight game since he suffered a lower-body injury in the team’s penultimate
game of the regular season. However, forward Mikhail Grabovski could return
for the Isles in Game 5. The centerman has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with
an upper-body injury and is questionable for Tuesday.

Caps centerman Eric Fehr will miss a second straight game after he was
injured on a check by Kyle Okposo in the first period of Game 3

New York has won five of its six all-time playoff series against Washington,
but is trying to get past the opening round for the first time since 1993.