By the Associated Press
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 Islanders beat the defending champion Capitals, 2-0, last 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 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, helping the Islanders improve 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 minutes 8 seconds into the third period. “I think we’re really buying in, playing a good, solid team game.”
Clutterbuck scored on a two-man breakaway just 2:26 later.
The Capitals have hit a rough patch under their new coach, Todd Reirden, losing four in a row for the first time since March 2017. Washington has just one five-on-five 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.”
Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was sharp in stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced in his first game since his left eye was injured on a high stick on 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, 56, was honored with a video tribute during the first period. Even though he faced the Capitals at Barclays Center earlier this season — he received his Stanley Cup ring, as did the assistant Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, the director of goaltending — Trotz expected another emotional night being back in Washington.
Fans gave Trotz a lengthy standing ovation throughout the video, which summed up his four years in Washington, from when he was hired to the lifting of the Cup in Las Vegas. He left the Capitals in a contract dispute in June, was hired by the Islanders days later and was replaced by Reirden, a longtime assistant.
“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.”