Washington, DC – In a battle between playoff hopefuls, it was the New York Islanders who picked up two vital points.
John Tavares potted the game-winning goal in the late stages of the third period as the Islanders edged the Washington Capitals, 3-2, at Verizon Center.
Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves for New York, which overcame a blown two-goal first-period lead to win its second straight.
The Islanders remained two points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington, meanwhile, is now four points out of a playoff spot.
Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots for the Capitals, who were vying for a season- high fourth consecutive victory.
"We talked about the Islanders. They're a better team than people think," said Washington head coach Adam Oates. "They've improved. They do a lot of things well, they're well coached. I don't think we took them lightly."
Tavares snapped a 2-2 tie with his 20th goal of the season. Capitals defenseman Mike Green turned the puck over deep in the Washington zone and the giveaway resulted in Matt Moulson feeding Tavares for a wrister from the right circle at the 14:42 mark of the final period.
"That line struggled a little bit in the first two periods but I talked with them after the second (period) and I knew they were going to find a way," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. "We knew they were going to find a way. When you need a big goal, it's that line that usually comes up for us. It was good to see those guys respond in the third (period)."
The Capitals pulled Holtby in favor of an extra attacker with 1:38 remaining, but they were unable to orchestrate another comeback.
New York jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey.
Keith Aucoin sent a cross-ice pass from the left boards that Grabner fired home at 5:24, and Bailey beat Holtby to the blocker side with a slap shot from the right circle at 7:56.
Washington fought back, however, and tied things up in the middle frame.
Troy Brouwer broke into the New York zone and fed a trailing Mike Ribeiro, who snapped a shot past Nabokov at 10:05. John Carlson then pulled the Capitals even with a one-timer from the right point at 13:28.
Alex Ovechkin had his goal streak snapped at five games, but the Washington captain did extend his point streak to six games with the secondary assist on Carlson's tally. Ovechkin has six goals and four helpers during his current run ... Moulson picked up his 100th career assist ... The Islanders opened a four-game road trip with their third straight victory as a guest ... Entering play, Washington had been outscored 35-28 in the second period this season.