Washington Capitals (+120) at New York Islanders (-133, 5.5 o/u)
The New York Islanders (2-1, 1-0 home) – who came into Round 1 as +135 underdogs – have a great chance to grab a 3-1 stranglehold in their series against the Washington Capitals (1-2, 0-1 away) when they host Game 4 tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (7:30 PM Eastern).
After losing Game 2 (4-3), the Islanders bounced back in Game 3 with a 2-1 OT win. New York dominated the play virtually all game – outshooting the Caps 42-25 – but surrendered a late third period goal to Nick Backstrom that sent the game to an extra frame.
Captain and potential league MVP John Tavares saved the day just 15 seconds into overtime, though, banging home a rebound off a tip from Nikolai Kulemin. It was the fastest overtime goal in Islanders’ history.
“The best players have to be your best players if you’re going to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of Tavares. “Tonight, 91 was 91. He did a lot of good things for us on the ice but on the bench, too, to calm things down.”
Hoping to avoid a 3-1 series hole, the Capitals expect their own Hart Trophy candidate, Alex Ovechkin, to pick up his game in tonight’s crucial tilt.
“You’re going to have some different challenges along the way,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “And this is another one where [Ovechkin] can be a difference-maker. And I expect him to be a difference-maker.”
Ovechkin has just one point through the first three games of the series. His absence on the scoresheet has continued a concerning trend: the last time the Caps were in the playoffs (2012-13), the “Great 8” only managed two points in seven games against the Rangers as Washington was ousted in the first round.
In the trends, the Islanders have won the last three against the Capitals at home. Two of the three games in this year’s series have stayed under 5.5 goals. With the Islanders’ defense playing the best it has all season, and Braden Holtby solid in the Caps’ net, look for tonight’s game to stay under as well.
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)