Vanecek blanks Islanders as Capitals snap losing streak
NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Wilson scored early, Alex Ovechkin added an empty-net goal late, and Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves to lead the Washington Capitals to a 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Vanecek picked up his seventh win of the season and his third career shutout as the Capitals snapped a four-game skid (0-2-2).
“The guys was buzzing today,” Vanecek said. “They were not making mistakes. They helped me a lot with the blocked shots."
Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves in only his fifth start for the Islanders since allowing four goals against the New York Rangers in late November.
Wilson opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the slot at 4:35 of the first period. The Islanders lost track of Wilson when the Capitals broke over the blue line and a spinning Aliaksei Protas zipped a pass to Wilson, who was all alone between the circles. Washington outshot the Islanders 16-7 in the first 20 minutes.
“First goal really helps settle you in on an early game,” Wilson said. “That helps us play the game we want to play. If you are chasing the game you get away from some of your habits and the stuff that it takes to win.”
The Islanders' best opportunity came midway through the first period when defenseman Noah Dobson fired a wrist shot off the post after making a nifty move to create space in the slot.
"We got to find a way to get the puck to the net, especially late," Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We got to find a way to bear down and get something greasy.”
Vanecek preserved the shutout when he denied Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom on a stuff-in opportunity with 2:30 remaining in the third period. The 26-year-old goaltender is in his second season with Washington after the organization selected him in the second round of the 2014 NHL draft. The Czech goalie has collected 28 career victories in 55 appearances with the Capitals.
The Islanders were 0-3 on the power play and fell to 5-10-2 when they fail to capitalize on the man advantage.
“I often think specialty teams are a reflection of your five-on-five play,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our guys were dialed in, that means the penalty killers were dialed in. They won the battles, executed their routes, caught the clears, blocked shots and did all the little things that can make a penalty kill successful.”
Ovechkin sealed the victory with his 755th career goal in the final seconds.
Lane Lambert led the Islanders behind the bench while coach Barry Trotz remains in COVID-19 protocol.
"We knew the magnitude of the game and we didn't get the result," Lambert said.
NOTES: Capitals forward Conor Sheary was placed in COVID-19 protocol prior to the game. ... The Capitals haven’t had two consecutive regulation losses in 53 straight games, a streak that began April 9, 2021. … Washington is 17-6-4 when scoring the first goal. ... The Capitals have had 11 rookies appear in a game this season, the most by Washington since the 2013-14 season.
Islanders host Philadelphia on Monday night.
Capitals host Vancouver on Sunday.
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