If the New York Islanders were looking to ease any uncertainties surrounding their offense after an inactive offseason, they did little to help their cause on opening night.
The Washington Capitals came away with a 2-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum — a TJ Oshie power-play goal late in the second period proving the difference.
New York’s sputtering offense recorded 26 shots in the loss against Capitals rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov — the expected successor of Braden Holtby — in his NHL debut on Friday night.
He outdueled Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made a strong debut with the club after signing in free agency over the summer. The veteran netminder stopped 26 of 28 shots to keep the Islanders within touching distance.
“I think in the first game you’re getting a little rust off,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said as he continued to break down his team’s performance. “I liked our first [period].”
In that first period, the Islanders trailed for just 2:02 after conceding the opening goal — a Jakub Vrana wrister that nicked off Varlamov’s glove. Second-year defenseman Devon Toews threw a puck toward Samsonov’s net from the left boards where it hit Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas and went in.
There was no shortage of chances in the second. Casey Cizikas couldn’t get the puck to his backhand to stuff the puck home on a wide-open net before Brock Nelson had a chance snuffed out by John Carlson with Samsonov down and out of position.
“We just weren’t able to get that extra one,’ Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “They did a really good job stepping up and eliminating all of our opportunities.
Nelson’s frustrating night was headlined by a pair of penalties — one which helped put the Capitals back in front late in the second.
With the winger serving two minutes for a hook, Oshie made the Islanders pay for the missed opportunities when he chipped a wrister from his knees over Varlamov with 2:17 remaining in the frame that would prove to be the game-winner.
The Islanders went out with a whimper in the third period as they were unable to generate many chances against an organized Capitals team.
“They were the better team in the third,” Trotz said. “They got on us.”
With the win, the Capitals improve to 2-0-0 following an overtime victory in St. Louis against the Blues on Wednesday night.
“They’re a good, solid hockey team,” Trotz said. “That was a good first test, for sure.”
“I don’t think it’s the time to get frustrated right now,” Lee said. “I think it’s more that we’re bummed out that we didn’t get this win.”
The Islanders have a quick turnaround as they host the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday back at the Nassau Coliseum.