UNIONDALE, N.Y. — It seems like a simple recipe. In getting his first goal in over three months, Mike Knuble pointed to it.
“You just go to the net and things happen sometimes,” he said.
On Tuesday night it wasn’t just Knuble. It was just about the entire Washington Capitals offense in the third period, as Alex Ovechkin’s aggressive net-crashing paved the way to a 5-4 shootout victory.
For a star player who has struggled to score goals this season, Ovechkin scored twice Tuesday at the New York Islanders on rebounds.
“I don’t think the whole second period our line go to the net all the time and we make some bad turnovers in the neutral zone and it cost us a goal,” Ovechkin said. “If you can’t make some pretty plays, you just have to go there and find some dirty plays and dirty goals.”
That came in the form of Ovechkin banging home a rebound from a Brooks Laich shot late in the second to help “catapult” the Caps comeback, according to Keith Aucoin, and then doing some serious stick work at the side of the net to tie it in the third.
“When Ovi scored it took three chances, I think. It happened so quick, but it looks like three shots,” coach Dale Hunter said. “It took the third shot to get in because the goalie was playing very well.”
Dmitry Orlov even drove to the net on his goal, as the young defenseman was the beneficiary of some porous New York defense and a sharp pass by Marcus Johansson.
It seemed like a team-wide effort to get to the net, where magic happens. Matt Hendricks pointed to the Islanders’ “unique” neutral zone defense and how the Caps were forced to adjust.
“We try making plays through the middle of the neutral zone and, boom, they pounce on the turnovers and it’s back in our end,” Hendricks said. “Once we got to just establishing a forecheck where we were putting pucks in areas where we could get them, getting pucks to the net, we started to find a little bit of a [rhythm].”
The Caps established heavy traffic in front of Evgeni Nabokov, as Knuble tipped in a Dennis Wideman shot to score just 28 seconds after the Islanders made it 3-0, and his teammates followed that lead.
“The ice was really soft and really chewed up. We had to keep it simple tonight,” Aucoin (three assists) said. “When we were successful we were able to do that. We got the puck in deep and got a lot of pucks to the net and guys drove the net, and that’s why we were successful.”