Sports

Caps, Isles fight for series lead at the Coliseum

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Islanders hope to regain the upper hand in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals when they host the Washington Capitals in an afternoon battle Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders jumped out to an early lead in the best-of-seven series with a 4-1 road win in Game 1 and appeared on their way to a 2-0 advantage Friday evening before Washington came roaring back for a 4-3 victory at the Verizon Center.

New York led Game 2 by a 3-1 count after Kyle Okposo scored with 5:51 left in the second period, but Alex Ovechkin tallied just two minutes later to put the Capitals on the comeback trail.

Nicklas Backstrom tied the score at 3-3 with a power-play tally 3:44 into the third period and Jason Chimera netted the game-winner at the 7:37 mark.

New York hopes to bounce back on Sunday in what will be one of the club's final games at Nassau Coliseum. Of course, how many games the Isles have left at the old building depends on how far they can go in this postseason.

The Islanders, who are moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season, haven't won a playoff series since the 1993 postseason, when it began a run to the conference finals with an opening-round win over the Capitals. New York won that series in six games and this season's encounter marks the first playoff meeting between the clubs since that matchup over two decades ago.

The clubs will meet again on Long Island for Game 4 on Tuesday.

New York will try to put its latest effort in the rearview mirror and use the home crowd on Sunday to retake the series lead.

"When you are in the playoffs you have to have a short memory; you move past it and move on to the next game," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "You can't think about it now, you have got to get ready for Game 3."

Backstrom contributed a goal and two assists for the Capitals. He scored for the first time since Feb. 19 to halt a 24-game goal drought.

Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 53 goals during the regular season, added his first marker of the postseason for the hosts. Ovechkin snapped a seven-game goal-scoring drought in the playoffs, notching his first postseason tally since May 2, 2013 when he scored in Game 1 of a 4-3 opening-round series loss to the New York Rangers.

Washington won Game 2 despite playing without No. 1 goaltender Braden Holtby, who was forced to sit out the game due to illness. Philipp Grubauer was recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League and made his NHL playoff debut a successful one, stopping 18 shots for the win.

"I just liked his demeanor," Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said. "I can't put myself in those shoes. That is the great trait of a goalie. You are not so overwhelmed by the moment or the situation."

The 23-year-old native of Germany became the third rookie netminder in club history to win a playoff debut in regulation, joining Bob Mason (1987) and Olaf Kolzig (1995).

Holtby practice on Saturday and is expected to play in today's game. The 25- year-old took the loss in Game 1 after yielding three goals on 26 shots.

"It was a typical illness," Holtby told his team's website. "It was something that bothered me a little bit before Game 1, and I tried to fight it out to the end. I tried to play Game 2, but it just didn't work out. It doesn't matter now; we won it [Game 2]. I'm feeling better so we're looking forward to Game 3."

Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Strome joined Okposo as the goal-scorers for New York, while Jaroslav Halak took the loss despite making 31 saves.

The Isles once again played without defenseman Travis Hamonic, who led the club in average ice time during the regular season. Hamonic is dealing with an unspecified lower-body injury suffered in the club's penultimate game of the regular season. He has not resumed skating since the injury and is unlikely to play this afternoon.

Mikhail Grabovski is rumored to be nearing a return for the Isles. The centerman has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with an upper-body injury and is questionable for Sunday.

New York has won five of its six all-time playoff series against Washington.