The New York Islanders were close to ending their five-game losing streak.
But Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals found a win to get their second win in two days.
Ovechkin’s overtime winner came after Nicklas Backstrom tied the game with a short-handed score with 49 seconds left in the third period to lift the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Islanders on Saturday.
Ovechkin’s 21st goal at 2:07 of overtime gave Washington the victory and improved its record to 14-11-2. The Capitals also had a strong game from goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 37 saves.
”We were lucky at the end, and then we got it done in overtime,” Washington coach Adam Oates said. ”At the end of the day, you want to do the right things out there. And we did.”
The Islanders seemed poised for their first win since Nov. 16 after Thomas Vanek gave them a 2-1 lead with just under two minutes left.
Vanek scored his eighth of the season when he flipped the puck past Holtby from in close at 18:09 as linemates John Tavares and Kyle Okposo assisted.
The one-goal lead appeared safe but it wasn’t to be as Capitals defenseman Mike Green took an interference penalty at 18:50.
The ensuing play went into the Islanders end where Backstrom took a pass from Jason Chimera, then managed to slide the puck past Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson for his sixth of the season to knot the score at 2.
”It was a great pass by Chimmer that landed on my tape,” Backstrom said. ”It really felt great for me because it was a tight game between two good teams. It was felt good that we came back, a great win for us.”
Nilsson was making his first start for the Islanders this season after Kevin Poulin had lost the previous five games.
Starter Evgeni Nabokov was injured early in the Nov. 16th game against Detroit. The Islanders won that game in a shootout with Poulin in relief but they haven’t won since.
Aaron Volpatti’s score at 8:58 of the middle period put Washington ahead 1-0. Tom Wilson and Martin Erat assisted on his second goal of the season.
The Islanders dictated much of the pace against the Capitals. They outshot Washington 15-9 in the first period and 12-10 in the second, a day after a 5-0 home loss to Detroit.
Cal Clutterbuck’s short-handed breakaway goal at 3:59 of the third woke up the crowd at Nassau Coliseum.
Clutterbuck broke in alone on Holtby and beat the goaltender to the glove side for his third of the season. Both goaltenders continued their sharp play until Vanek’s goal broke the tie.
The Islanders have been on a spiral since beating Boston at home on Nov. 2 to improve to 6-5-3. They are 2-10-1 since and 4-11-1 since they traded Tavares’ left wing Matt Moulson and two draft picks to Buffalo for Vanek on Oct. 27.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano remained upbeat following the loss.
”Guys worked hard tonight. I thought they were focused and this was a step in the right direction,” he said. ”It came down to special teams. It’s just very frustrating that it had to end this way.”
The Islanders and Capitals play close games, as 17 of the past 25 games between them have been decided by one goal. Washington is 13-1-3 in those games.
The Caps are 17-5-3 against the Islanders since the start of the 2007-08 season, including their 6-2 over New York on Nov. 5 at Verizon Center.
The Islanders next host Pittsburgh on Tuesday before a five-game trip against top Western Conference teams St. Louis, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix.
For a club that reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2007, the season is at an early crossroads.
”We have to believe in one another and stick with it,” Capuano said.
Calvin de Haan made his season debut for the Islanders. The 22-year-old defenseman was recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Thanksgiving. A first round pick — 12th overall — in 2009, he previously had played only one game for the Islanders in December 2011.
NOTES: The Capitals recalled goaltender Philipp Grubauer from AHL Hershey to replace backup Michal Neuvirth, who stepped on puck during warmup on Friday and missed his scheduled start. . . . Washington also recalled defenseman Dmitry Orlov from Hershey, sending down center Michael Latta. . . . The Capitals were without defensemen John Erskine (knee) and Jack Hillen (fractured tibia). . . . The Islanders continued to be without defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body).