Published January 13, 2015
Alex Ovechkin put in the deciding goal during the shootout, while Braden Holtby turned in an outstanding performance between the pipes to help lift the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders in a key late-season clash from Verizon Center.
Holtby stopped 35-of-36 shots through regulation and overtime, then stoned all three New York skaters in the final phase to vault the Capitals into a first- place tie with Winnipeg in the Southeast Division.
"We have a lot of hockey left," reasoned Capitals head coach Adam Oates.
Mike Green had the lone regulation goal for Washington, now 6-1-1 over its last eight outings.
Kyle Okposo's marker with just under five minutes left in the third period enabled the Islanders to pick up an important point that moved the club into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Evgeni Nabokov finished with 21 saves for New York, which had won five of its last six coming in.
"We'll take the point on the road in a tough building to play in against a good hockey team," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said.
Holtby's last recorded save, a deflection of a tricky wrister from Frans Nielsen in the final minute of overtime, sent the contest to a shootout, where the Washington goaltender rejected Nielsen again after the Caps' Matt Hendricks began the segment by shooting wide left.
Ovechkin then beat Nabokov with a nasty backhander the star wing placed into the upper left corner, and New York's Brad Boyes missed a golden opportunity to tie after the puck went off his stick after faking Holtby out of position.
Nabokov turned back Mike Ribeiro to keep the Isles alive, but Holtby got his right pad down in time to block John Tavares' attempt and give Washington the two points.
The Capitals appeared on the way to a regulation win until New York's Josh Bailey forced a turnover in the Washington zone and got the puck to Nielsen, whose pinpoint pass to Okposo in the left slot was knocked home for a 1-1 tie with 4:59 left to play.
Holtby protected a one-goal edge that Green provided late in the opening period by coming up with 14 saves in the second. Green's goal, the defenseman's fifth in four games, came 13 seconds prior to the first intermission, when he skated into the right circle and fired a shot through Nabokov's legs.
Green's score came less than three minutes after New York's Thomas Hickey very nearly gave his team a 1-0 lead with a long drive that trickled through the pads of Holtby. However, Caps defenseman Karl Alzner alertly was able to clear the puck before it crossed the goal line.
Martin Erat, acquired by Washington from Nashville at Wednesday's trade deadline, made his Capitals debut after playing in 723 games over 11 seasons with the Predators. The veteran forward, taken seventh overall by the Preds in the 1999 draft, was second in franchise history in goals (163), assists (318) and games played ... Forward Eric Fehr returned to the Capitals' lineup after missing four straight games with an upper-body injury ... The Islanders fell to 1-15-1 this season when recording two or less goals.