- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

John Tavares hit two posts, was robbed on a one-timer and thought for sure he had an assist on a beautiful backhand pass.

Through 60 minutes, the latest “Next One” was one of the best players on the ice but couldn’t crack the score sheet. No worries; Tavares kept working and delivered an upset for the upstart New York Islanders in overtime.

Tavares hit Mark Streit with a beautiful centering pass as the Islanders defeated the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Friday night at Verizon Center.

“Good players make the plays,” Caps center Brendan Morrison said. “He’s a young kid, but you can tell he’s highly skilled. He’s going to be a good player in this league.”

The first pick in June’s draft had several great chances, and Tavares even slammed the butt end of his stick off the ice in frustration after Jose Theodore stoned him from point-blank range on a one-timer in the third period.

Still, the 19-year-old wunderkind made the key play, outworking Nicklas Backstrom and Shaone Morrisonn for the puck behind the net and hitting Streit all alone in front with a perfect pass 53 seconds into the extra session.

Tavares has four goals and nine points in 12 games, but the quality of his one-point effort Friday made him look like the franchise player the Islanders desperately need.

“They work hard; they’re a good team,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’ve only got three wins, but… if they don’t get injuries, they’re going to be a team to be reckoned with in that division.”

The loss snapped the Caps’ six-game winning streak and continued a stretch of contests in which they couldn’t put away an inferior team. In their past five games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, the Caps are 4-0-1, but overtime victories against Nashville and the Islanders and third-period letdowns in Atlanta don’t inspire confidence that this team is ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup.

“I think we escaped in a few - no question,” Morrison said. “We’re just having a difficult time playing a full 60 minutes. I think instead of worrying about the result, we need to worry about the process. I think a lot of times we play to the score, and that’s what gets us in trouble.”

Alex Ovechkin gave the Caps a 1-0 lead 4:41 into the first period. Washington had a four-minute power play after Kyle Okposo was tagged with a double minor for high sticking, and Ovechkin’s blast from the top of the zone squirted through goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

It was Ovechkin’s league-leading 14th goal and matched his personal best for a calendar month. (He also had 14 in March 2008.) Defenseman Mike Green had the primary assist, pushing his points streak to eight games. That is the second-longest streak in the NHL this season behind Tampa Bay forward Marty St. Louis’ 10-game stretch.

Okposo atoned for his gaffe by bringing the Islanders even later in the first with his third goal of the year at 10:37.

Washington’s Tomas Fleischmann and New York’s Frans Nielsen each collected a pair of goals in the middle period. Nielsen gave the Islanders the lead at 7:12 when Green whiffed on an outlet pass; Nielsen was there to scoop up the puck and snap it past Theodore.

Fleischmann had the next two goals - the first after Chris Clark intercepted a Roloson pass behind the net and the netminder couldn’t get back into position in time at 8:50. He added his second of the year less than eight minutes later. Fleischmann was able to put home the rebound of a Green point shot despite being harassed in front of the net.

“I felt better tonight than yesterday,” said Fleischmann, who made his season debut Thursday in Atlanta after missing the first 11 games with a blood clot in his leg. “The timing was there, but I am just sad we didn’t win the game.”

As the Islanders had done earlier in the period, the Caps gave one right back when Nielsen added his second of the night at 17:50.

Roloson made 17 third-period saves to force overtime and set up Tavares’ heroics.

“I think the really good teams in this league - the great teams - they set the tone night in and night out,” Morrison said. “You don’t wait to see what is going to happen; you go out and dictate right from the get-go. I think too many times we get caught waiting to see how the game is going to go and see how they are going to react instead of just worrying about ourselves.”



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