TORONTO — Josh Bailey scored a shorthanded goal 6:52 into the third period and the New York Islanders overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Wednesday in a hard-hitting opener to the first-round playoff series.
Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee scored 1:54 apart spanning the second intermission. Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 shots and Anthony Beauvillier sealed it by scoring with 8:05 remaining in a game the Islanders overcame their own lack of discipline in allowing the Capitals seven power-play opportunities.
T.J. Oshie scored on consecutive power-play opportunities five minutes apart in the second period for Washington.
The Capitals finished the game without top-line forward Nicklas Backstrom. Lee set the physical tone of the game by knocking over Backstrom with a late hit in the opening minutes, which led to the Islanders captain fighting Washington defenceman John Carlson. The Capitals did not provide any details in announcing Backstrom would not return after playing seven shifts.
Carlson had two assists in returning after missing three preliminary round games with an injury. Braden Holtby stopped 23 shots.
Bailey and Brock Nelson caught the Capitals’ power-play napping in scoring the go-ahead goal, and Leo Komarov off for high-sticking.
Nelson began the play by lobbing the puck high into the air from the Washington blue line. He then raced in and disrupted Holtby’s bid to play the puck. Nelson then stripped Alex Ovechkin in the corner before centring to a wide-open Bailey in front, from where he fired it inside the left post.
The Metropolitan Division champion Capitals were coming off a sluggish performance in a preliminary round-robin tournament in which they finished 1-1-1, managed just five goals and closed with a 2-1 win over Boston on Sunday.
The Islanders were the more tested team in eliminating the Florida Panthers with a 5-1 win in Game 4 of their best-of five series on Friday. New York outscored the Panthers 13-7 and allowed just three goals in even-strength situations.
Eberle began the comeback by scoring on a snapshot from the high slot with 63 seconds left in the second period. Lee tied the game 51 seconds into the third by converting a rebound in front, and after Holtby stopped Ryan Pulock’s blast from the right point.
Oshie opened the scoring 5:27 into the second period with Matt Martin off for interference. And he made it 2-0 five minutes later with Eberle off for hooking.
The game between the division rivals got off to a chippy start starting with Lee’s hit on Backstrom.
A few minutes later, New York’s Casey Cizikis and Washington’s Tom Wilson traded punches as part of a scuffle in front of the benches, which began with Capitals Dmitry Orlov’s hit on Cal Clutterbuck.
The period ended with Wilson and Lee trading punches after the whistle.
In having to kill off three power-play opportunities in the first period, the Islanders matched a franchise playoff low for shots in being outshot 7-2 over the first 20 minutes. New York managed two shots in one period twice before in the playoffs, both times against Washington in 1984 and ’85.
The game started just after 4 p.m., an hour later than scheduled after overtimes played havoc with the East’s first-round schedule.
Game 1 of the series between Boston and Carolina was pushed back from Tuesday night to Wednesday morning after the Tampa Bay Lightning needed five overtimes to beat Columbus. And then it took the Bruins 21:13 of OT to edge the Hurricanes 4-3.
NOTES: Isles D Johnny Boychuk returned after missing three games of the first-round series against Florida. He was injured in Game 1, when he was shouldered to the head by Panthers D Mike Matheson. … Beauvillier extended his point streak to five games, in which he has four goals and two assists. … Before the game, the Capitals unveiled grey hoodies with a “ We Skate For EQUALITY ” printed on the front around a team logo, and worn by Holtby, Ovechkin and Carlson.
Game 2 scheduled for Friday at 8 p.m. EDT.