Isles shoot for 3-1 lead over Caps

( – The New York Islanders hope to move closer to their
first playoff series win in over 20 years when they host the Washington
Capitals in Tuesday’s Game 4 battle at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders lead this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal set 2-1,
leaving them two wins shy of winning their first postseason series since
beating Pittsburgh in the second round of the 1993 playoffs. New York began
that postseason run with a first-round win over Washington and was eliminated
by Montreal in the conference finals.

New York has won Games 1 and 3 of this series and the Isles claimed a 2-1
overtime victory in Sunday’s meeting on Long Island. Captain John Tavares
scored just 15 seconds into the extra session to help the home team rebound
from a 4-3 setback in Game 2 at Washington.

The Isles hope to pick up another victory on home ice, as they wind down their
time at the Coliseum. New York is moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at
the start of next season.

Washington, meanwhile, will try to even this series on Tuesday or it will head
back to the Verizon Center for Thursday’s Game 5 trailing three games to one.
The Capitals haven’t made it out of the first round since 2012 when it beat
Boston in seven games before losing to the New York Rangers 4-3 in the
conference semis.

The Caps stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to take Game 2, but couldn’t complete
the comeback in the most recent contest. Washington trailed 1-0 heading into
the third period on Sunday before sending the game to OT thanks to Nicklas
Backstrom’s goal with 6:06 left in regulation.

Tavares, however, would deliver the decisive goal shortly after the opening
faceoff to begin the extra session.

New York’s star centerman won the draw at center ice and Johnny Boychuk
blasted the puck into the Washington zone. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby
gloved the shot and decided to move the puck to defenseman John Carlson, who
tried to play the puck up the boards to a teammate. The pass went right to
Isles defenseman Nick Leddy at the left point and, with a Washington player
closing in, fired a shot that was tipped by Nikolay Kulemin. Holtby made a
nice save with his left pad, kicking the puck away, but Tavares was able to
knock in the rebound.

“I saw Holtby wasn’t as quick getting to the post and I was able to find a
hole,” said Tavares, whose goal set a team record for fastest overtime goal at
home in the playoffs

Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves for the Islanders, who received a regulation goal
from Kyle Okposo.

Holtby, back between the pipes after missing Game 2 with an illness, stopped
40 shots in a losing effort.

“We have to make a better play,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz about the
choices made leading up to the winning goal. “We had options, we just didn’t
pick a good one.”

The Isles once again played without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who led the
club in average ice time during the regular season. Hamonic is dealing with an
unspecified lower-body injury suffered in the club’s penultimate game of the
regular season. He is expected to miss Game 4.

Mikhail Grabovski is rumored to be nearing a return for the Isles. The
centerman has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with an upper-body injury and is
questionable for Tuesday.

Washington, meanwhile, will not have centerman Eric Fehr for the next two
games after he was injured on a check by Okposo in the first period of
Sunday’s game. Fellow forward Marcus Johansson also was banged up in Game 3
and is questionable tonight for the Caps.

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