The question posed to Jack Capuano was about the state of on-ice officiating.His response was a glimpse of unvarnished honesty during a time when obfuscation rules the day.
“I don’t think they’ve set a tone all series, so why change now?” Capuano told reporters after the Islanders’ 3-1 win over the Capitals in Game 6 Saturday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. The best-of-seven series is tied three games apiece, and the series finale is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday at Verizon Center (MSG+).
The winner of the series will meet the Rangers in what will amount to as theMetropolitan Division Finals. The Rangers advanced by eliminating the Penguins in five games.
“Seriously, it’s been a physical series,” Capuano continued. “I’ve watched other hockey from other series’ [and in] this one, no question the bodies are flying around. Scrums in front of the goaltender, everybody’s being hard on the best players on both sides and they’re letting them playing.”
Capuano’s belief was based on observing the Metropolitan Division rivals engage in a continuous slam dance spanning 371 minutes and 24 seconds, six games and two arenas, underscored by a 10-man brawl following the final buzzer Saturday.
The fracas was sparked by John Carlson’s shot towards Jaroslav Halak as the game ended. Kyle Okposoconfronted the Capitals defenseman. A split-second later the skaters on both sides engaged in wrestling matches and traded punches.
“Every game has been pretty physical,” Matt Martin said after both teams had retreated to their respective rooms.
That is an understatement.The teams have combined for 530 total hits in the series, 263 for the Islanders and 267 for the Capitals. The Islanders are averaging 43.8 hits per game while the Capitals check in with 44.5.
So no one on either side is expecting Game 7 to evolve into a free-flowing exhibition of hockey. Not after six games that could constitute a Best Of Don Cherry-favored hockey DVD.
“Emotions are starting to boil over. It should be a pretty emotional [Game 7],” Martin said. “Hopefully we play the same type of game and walk out of Washington with a win.
“We’re physical. Every shift it seemed like guys were leaving it all out on the ice. Our backs were against the wall and you have the find a way to respond. We played a complete, 60-minute [game].”
Which was personified by John Tavares on the game-winning goal. As Islanders and Capitals players were in a chaotic scene by the benches, Tavares found a loose puck and stormed into the attacking zone. Karl Alzner and Alex Ovechkin skated back to defend against the Islanders captain.Tavares fired a shot that Braden Holtby stopped, and his momentum carried him past the goal line. Alzner and Ovechkin sandwiched Tavares against the end boards, and he fell to the ice.
But the puck squirted loose to Nick Leddy, who fed Nikolay Kulemin, who maneuvered his way through the mass of humanity at the benches to get to the front of the net. A flick of the wrist later and the Islanders had a 2-1 lead. Cal Clutterbuck’s empty-netter with 53 seconds left guaranteed the Islanders wouldn’t leave Nassau Coliseum with a loss.
And should they find a way to win Monday’sGame 7, the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike will play host to one last Islanders-Rangers series.
“We know what’s at stake,” Colin McDonald told reporters after the game. “This was the most desperate game all year.”