WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – A dominating performance at home propelled the Washington Capitals to their first Presidents’ Trophy last season, and the Verizon Center has helped them get off to a good start again this fall.
If the New York Islanders hope to earn a win in the nation’s capital, they’ll have to do it without two of their biggest contributors.
John Tavares and James Wisniewski will both miss Wednesday night’s game at Washington, which is looking to complete an unbeaten first homestand.
The Capitals (2-1-0) opened their season with a 4-2 loss at Atlanta, but have bounced back with home victories over New Jersey and Ottawa. Washington defeated the Senators 3-2 in overtime Monday night.
The early success is hardly surprising considering Washington was an NHL-best 30-5-6 at home last season, the best winning percentage by an Eastern Conference team since the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques.
Star left wing Alex Ovechkin continues to spark the Capitals, contributing two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 7-2 victory over the Devils before scoring in the extra period Monday.
Coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t pleased with Ovechkin’s sluggish performance before overtime, but the two-time Hart Trophy winner redeemed himself with a single wrist shot with 31.1 seconds left until a shootout.
“Only Alex can play like he did and score the overtime goal and be the hero. Go ask him how he played. He’ll tell you: Not so good,” Boudreau said. “But he got the overtime goal and that’s what superstars do. That’s why he’s out in the last minute, because he’s got the ability to win you a game.”
Tavares was chosen by the Islanders with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, five years after the Capitals used that pick to select Ovechkin.
The 20-year-old center, who led New York with 54 points as a rookie, sustained a concussion in a 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas on Saturday and did not play in a 6-4 win over the Rangers on Monday.
New York (1-0-1) was already missing top-scoring defenseman Mark Streit and emerging right wing Kyle Okposo, both of whom began the season on injured reserve. Wisniewski – the Islanders’ leader in ice time – will miss Wednesday’s game as the defenseman begins a two-game suspension for making an obscene gesture at Rangers forward Sean Avery.
The young Islanders still managed to beat the Rangers, scoring three unanswered goals in the final five minutes. Blake Comeau boosted the Islanders with two goals and an assist, including the winning goal on a power play.
“I’m feeling good,” Comeau told the Islanders’ official website. “Confidence is rolling and I’m still shooting the puck and that’s something I’ll continue.”
The Islanders now begin their road schedule, which posed major problems for them last season. Their 11-23-7 road record was the worst of any team except Edmonton.
New York, however, earned three points from its two trips to Washington, including a 4-3 overtime win Oct. 30.
Washington’s goaltending situation is murky. Semyon Varlamov approaching a return from an undisclosed injury, but Michal Neuvirth has played well in his place, stopping 60 of 64 shots over the last two games.
Rick DiPietro started New York’s first two games and is 9-3-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average against the Capitals.
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