UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Alex Ovechkin assisted on goals by Jason Chimera and Nicklas Backstrom, and rookie Braden Holtby made 24 saves in his return from the minors to lift the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Ovechkin had the primary assist on Chimera's first-period goal and Backstrom's tally in the second that put Washington ahead 2-0. It was a rare feat for the Capitals, who had recently been saving all their offense for third periods.
The Capitals are 2-0-1 following an 0-2-1 skid but Washington's high-powered offense failed to score more than three goals for the 12th straight game.
Michael Grabner cut the Islanders' deficit in half in the second, but it wasn't enough for New York, which has lost five of six (1-4-1). Rick DiPietro returned from sitting out a 5-2 home loss to New Jersey on Monday, termed by Islanders coach Jack Capuano as a "maintenance day" for the oft-injured goalie, and stopped 22 shots.
New York got some good news as Kyle Okposo, the team's second-leading scorer last season, played for the first time since injuring his shoulder during training camp. His linemate, Frans Nielsen, came back after missing seven games because of a groin injury.
Okposo had a few chances during a first-period power play, but failed to get on the score sheet in his debut. The Islanders were 0 for 6 on the advantage.
The 21-year-old Holtby was recalled by the Capitals from Hershey of the AHL on Wednesday after Michal Neuvirth was injured in the first period of Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss at Philadelphia. Holtby (3-2-1) was sent to Hershey after allowing five goals on 23 shots in a 5-0 loss at New Jersey on Nov. 22.
Washington had scored all its goals in the previous two games in the third period. The Capitals have outscored opponents 11-2 in the third in the last nine games and 48-32 on the season.
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead 3:41 in on Chimera's seventh goal. Ovechkin sent a precision pass from the middle of the right circle across to Chimera, who got free of defenseman Andrew MacDonald at the left post and easily redirected the puck past DiPietro.
Backstrom and Ovechkin teamed up to double the lead 3:38 into the second. Backstrom dished the puck at the blue line to Ovechkin, who streaked toward the net from the right-wing boards and shoved a backhanded shot in on DiPietro. The rebound sat in front long enough for Backstrom to charge in and score his 12th goal.
The Islanders got one back soon after on a play the Capitals would surely like to have another chance at defending.
Josh Bailey lofted the puck out of the Islanders end toward the neutral zone. Capitals defenseman John Carlson took a halfhearted swipe at it over his head with his stick, but missed. Grabner gained control and zoomed past him, cutting in alone on Holtby and beating him with a backhander at 5:15.
Notes: Backstrom has an assist in nine of 12 games. ... The Capitals' 1-0 edge after the first period marked their first lead at an intermission since the second period of the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 against Pittsburgh. Washington had played seven games since that 3-1 win, going 2-2-3. ... D Brian Fahey, recalled by Washington from Hershey on Thursday, was scratched. ... The Islanders were 1-4-2 without Nielsen. D Milan Jurcina sat out because of an undisclosed upper body injury sustained Monday.