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Washington Capitals face the New York Islanders with East lead at stake

Mar 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (13) against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Following their ugly loss to the New York Islanders last week, the Washington Capitals took out their frustration over the weekend by completing their season-long dominance of the New Jersey Devils.

But the Capitals’ real chance to respond to that 8-4 loss to the Islanders arrives Tuesday, when Washington visits the Uniondale, N.Y., with first place in the East Division on the line.

The Capitals took over sole possession of first place Sunday, when they beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-4, to cap a remarkable eight-game season sweep. It marked the first time a team has gone 8-0-0 against an opponent since the 2007-08 season, when the Montreal Canadiens swept the Boston Bruins.

“I thought we’ve played a good style against them — it hasn’t been perfect at all,” Capitals left winger Carl Hagelin said.

The Capitals’ style was decidedly imperfect last Thursday in Uniondale, when Mathew Barzal collected a hat trick to lead the Islanders to the 8-4 rout. The eight goals allowed were the most surrendered by Washington since an 8-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 20, 2019.

“I think the Islanders game was one of those games where you play it, you lose and you try to forget it as soon as possible,” Hagelin said.

The Islanders last played Saturday, when Barzal capped an award-winning week by scoring the only goal in the shootout to lift New York to a 3-2 win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers.

That enabled the Islanders to stay within two points of Washington in the East heading into Tuesday’s game.

New York needs to keep playing well against the upper echelon in the East, considering the Islanders are just 3-7-2 against the Capitals and third-place Pittsburgh Penguins, and 21-3-2 against the rest of the division.

Tuesday’s game marks the second of five clashes this month between the Islanders and Capitals. The next three games will be played on Long Island.

“It’s just good competition,” said Barzal, who won NHL First Star of the Week honors after finishing with seven points in three games. “You get these little segments in the year where you’re fighting for certain positions and you’re playing the team that you’re fighting for that spot with. Those are fun games.”

–Field Level Media