Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the go-ahead goal with 7:18 remaining in the third period as the Washington Capitals edged the New York Islanders 2-1 on Monday night in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
History wasn't on the Capitals' side in Game 7s, but they did just enough to advance to the second round.
Washington will next face the top-seeded New York Rangers, the fifth playoff meeting between the clubs in the last seven years.
Braden Holtby, rarely tested by the Islanders, let in the tying goal at the 3:13 mark of the third period. Thomas Hickey carried the puck across the Washington blueline and dished to Frans Nielsen, who cut to the middle and fired a wrister through Holtby's pads.
Three minutes later, Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak was caught out of position after an odd carom off the glass. Halak, though, recovered in time to make a save on Jay Beagle and keep it 1-1.
Kuznetsov broke the tie when he took the puck from the right boards and skated across the ice before firing a shot over a sprawled Halak.
The lone penalty of the game was called with 2:54 to play as Washington's John Carlson went off for roughing.
New York failed to register a shot on the man advantage and finished 0-for-14 on the power play in the series.
Holtby needed to make only 10 saves for Washington, which improved to 4-9 in Game 7s, including 3-7 at home.
"I thought that was our best game [of the series], and we let it all out there," said Washington coach Barry Trotz. "Full credit to the whole group."
Halak made 24 saves for the Islanders, who have not advanced past the first round since 1993.
The loss means the franchise's time at Nassau Coliseum has come to an end. The team will move to Brooklyn next season.
"We wanted to get back home," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "The theme that they have at the Coliseum, with the jumbotron and the music and the chats, we actually played that before our game, so they were definitely in our thoughts. We wanted to get back there."
Halak, who won two Game 7s in the 2010 playoffs with Montreal, made good stops on Karl Alzner and Tom Wilson on the opening shift of the game.
After a couple of early chances, including a sneaky deflection by Kyle Okposo, New York went the last 15 minutes of the first period without a shot and was fortunate to escape with the game scoreless.
Washington's Jason Chimera had a quality chance at the side of the net late in the first but shoveled a rebound wide.
The Capitals dominated the first seven minutes of the second period, forcing the Islanders to use their timeout, but Halak continued to be strong in net.
One of New York's infrequent chances saw Brock Nelson skate out front and fire a shot wide with about 11 minutes left in the second.
Washington was finally able to break through on a goal by Joel Ward late in the second. Ward started the play with his hard work behind the net. He then dished to Alex Ovechkin, who fed a pass to Brooks Orpik at the left point. Orpik's shot was stopped, but Ward stuffed the rebound under Halak with 1:25 remaining.
Ward is no stranger to key goals in Game 7s. He netted the overtime winner against Boston three years, giving the Capitals a 2-1 victory and clinching the first-round series.
Holtby kicked out the right pad to deny Johnny Boychuk seconds after Washington took the lead. Mikhail Grabovski had the rebound on his stick, but missed the net.
The teams played in the longest Game 7 in NHL history in 1987. Pat LaFontaine scored 8:47 into the fourth overtime to win the "Easter Epic" for the Islanders ... The Islanders fell to 3-5 in Game 7s ... Boychuk had five shots for New York.