Capitals beat Islanders, Halak 5-1 for 3-2 series lead
(AP) -- With the crowd's raucous chants of "We are louder!" ringing throughout a lopsided third period, a group of unheralded scorers put the Washington Capitals on the verge of a playoff series victory.
Dominating despite zero points from Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals beat the New York Islanders 5-1 Thursday night to take a 3-2 lead in the first round, with rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring twice and defenseman Karl Alzner adding a goal and an assist.
The Capitals can end the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series by winning Game 6 at New York on Saturday, in what could be the Islanders' final game at Nassau Coliseum before they move to Brooklyn next season.
Thursday's third period began with Washington ahead only 2-1. But Kuznetsov, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera found the net in quick succession, and Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak was yanked with 11 minutes left in the game after allowing five goals on 35 shots.
And to think: The Islanders took a 1-0 lead in the first period.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby finished with 22 saves.
The cries of "Louder!" and "Can you hear us?!" from spectators were a reference to some back-and-forth among players from both teams over whose arena makes more noise.
There also was much chatter leading up to Game 5 about whether a big check by Washington's Tom Wilson on Lubomir Visnovsky in the second period of Game 4 was clean. Not surprisingly, the Capitals said it was; the Islanders did not. Visnovsky, who has a history of concussions, did not travel to Washington for Thursday's game.
It took less than 5 1/2 minutes for Wilson to find himself in a full-on fistfight with New York's Anders Lee. The punches put both in the penalty box, left Wilson with a bloody mouth -- and appeared to stir the Islanders. All of 26 seconds later, the visitors led 1-0 on Josh Bailey's shot into the upper corner of Holtby's net from the edge of the left circle off an assist from captain John Tavares.
At about the nine-minute mark, though, Washington tied it on Kuznetsov's first career playoff point, which he celebrated by punching the glass. Marcus Johansson's shot wound up in the air and Kuznetsov swatted it in from beside the crease with what looked very much like a tennis backhand.
Washington kept up sustained pressure on offense and, for a while, Halak was able to preserve the 1-all tie. The goalie stopped Chimera on a 1-on-1 breakaway in the first period, then made a pair of legs-spread, sitting-on-the-ice saves on close-range shots by Jay Beagle and Kuznetsov early in the second.
But 10 1/2 minutes into that period, Alzner put the hosts ahead 2-1 with his second goal of the series. Troy Brouwer's initial shot was stopped, but not held, by Halak. Before the goalie could smother the puck, Brouwer poked it free, curled behind the net and passed to Alzner at the front of the left circle.
The Capitals began the third period with their first power play of the evening, thanks to Halak's penalty for tripping Ovechkin. Washington did not convert on the extra-man opportunity, but Laich did score 42 seconds after it ended,
NOTES: New York went 0 for 2 on the power play and are 0 for 12 in the series. ... With Visnovsky out, D Griffin Reinhart made his NHL playoff debut. ... Islanders C Mikhail Grabovski was activated off the team's injured list and played for the first time since Feb. 19, after missing the last 23 games of the regular season and the start of the playoffs with an upper-body injury. "He was itching to get in there," coach Jack Capuano said. Grabovski played for Washington last season. ... Capuano sat Brock Nelson, who scored twice in New York's 4-1 victory in Game 1. ... Capitals F Eric Fehr missed his second game in a row with an upper-body injury and is expected to sit out Game 6, too.