Islanders beat Caps in Trotz’s return, move into first place
WASHINGTON (AP) — Barry Trotz returned to his old home arena to face the team he coached to the Stanley Cup. He left with his new team in first place.
Trotz’s New York Islanders beat the defending champion Washington Capitals 2-0 on Friday night to win their fourth in a row and leapfrog his former team into first place in the Metropolitan Division. In true Trotz fashion, the Islanders suffocated the Capitals to win for the 14th time in their past 17 games.
“We just talked about climbing,” Trotz said. “It just happened that the Caps were the next team in front of us. Two weeks ago we were talking about Buffalo and other teams like Montreal and just said, ‘Let’s keep climbing and don’t look up and just keep going,’ and the guys have been really good.”
Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck scored third-period goals, and Thomas Greiss made 19 saves for his second shutout of the season. New York held Washington under 20 shots and improved to 7-0-0 in the second half of back-to-back sets this season.
“Going into it you’re maybe a little more conscious of playing the right way and make sure you’re playing smart and doing the right things just because the tail end of the back-to-backs sometimes the legs aren’t there quite as much as the night before,” said Bailey, who redirected Mathew Barzal’s shot past Braden Holtby 5:08 into the second period. “I think we’re really buying in, playing a good, solid team game.”
The Capitals have hit a rough patch under new coach Todd Reirden, losing four in a row for the first time since March 2017. Washington has just one 5-on-5 goal during its skid and has lost seven of 10.
“We’re not generating enough offense,” Reirden said. “We were better at not giving up quite as many chances tonight, but yet they were able to convert on the ones that they got. We need to be better. That’s right from top of our list to the bottom of our list. We need more. We need more from our players.”
Holtby was sharp in stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced in his first game in almost a week since injuring his left eye on a high stick Saturday.
“We know what we have to do to be successful,” Holtby said. “I think tonight’ll help us because we played a team that is playing the right style of hockey and the way we want to play and the way we have played in the past to have a lot of success.”
Trotz was honored with a video tribute during the first period. Even though he faced the Capitals in Brooklyn earlier this season when he, assistant Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn got their Stanley Cup rings, Trotz expected another emotional night being back in Washington.
Fans gave Trotz a lengthy standing ovation throughout a video summing up his four years in Washington from when he was hired to the scene of lifting the Cup in Las Vegas. The 56-year-old left the Capitals in a contract dispute in June, was hired by the Islanders days later and replaced by longtime assistant Reirden.
“My heart got full of all the good memories,” Trotz said. “I was looking up there. I was trying not to look too much because I was getting pretty close to that sensitive side of myself. But it was extremely well done and it was just great memories and everybody was a part of something special.”
NOTES: Capitals D Brooks Orpik was honored for playing his 1,000th career-regular season game earlier in the week. Orpik was given a silver stick and Tiffany crystal as part of a pregame ceremony that included a tribute video featuring former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Sidney Crosby and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, among others. ... Islanders F Tom Kuhnhackl did not make the trip because of an illness.
Islanders: Look for their fifth consecutive victory when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
Capitals: Attempt to halt their losing streak when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno