Islanders earn a point in Washington with 2-1 shootout loss
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WASHINGTON -- The Islanders left a point on the Verizon Center ice Thursday night. But the one they took away might help them immensely.
The 2-1 shootout loss to the Capitals wasn't the preferred outcome, but Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 35 saves and stopped all three shootout tries, didn't appear to be willing to let any points go to the visitors. Alex Ovechkin scored the lone goal of the shootout.
"We'll take the point," Josh Bailey said, "but we're disappointed it's not two."
Bailey made the key play in getting the Islanders the point that moved them into seventh place in the East, one point ahead of the idle Rangers and the Devils, who lost in regulation to the Bruins. He knocked down a clearing attempt, circled the Capitals' net and fed Frans Nielsen, whose touch pass to Kyle Okposo had Holtby flailing at Okposo's blast from the right circle with 4:59 to go in the third.
"I didn't think we were going to get one by him," said Jack Capuano, whose team got a power play with 2:52 left in regulation and poured on pressure in overtime but could not wrest away a sixth win in seven games. "We would have liked two, but one is better than none."
Evgeni Nabokov also did his part, making a few standout stops among his 21 saves. He was beaten only by Mike Green's wrist shot with 12.9 seconds to go in the first and Ovechkin's shootout goal -- the only goal of any kind for Ovechkin in three games against the Islanders this season.
He came into Thursday night's game with 10 goals in his last nine games, with the only 0-fer coming in a 3-2 Islanders win here March 26. The Islanders were incredibly sound defensively throughout the game, needing Nabokov on a Caps power play in the second period but otherwise subduing Washington's skill players.
Even after a 14-shot second period, the Islanders still trailed. There was little frustration in their locker room, though.
"Going into that third period, our mind-set was we're gonna win this game," Travis Hamonic said. "That's a mentality you have to have this time of year, to win these playoff-type games. We had it even after we got the goal, going into OT.
"Maybe a couple months ago, we sit back there. But we want to be aggressive and stay aggressive."
The Capitals moved into tiebreaker possession of first place in the Southeast Division, launching from 10th place to third with this win. But the Islanders still have more points than the Caps, more than all but six teams in the East and 10 games left to prove they belong in the postseason for the first time in six years.
They came off the ice disappointed that their effort left them with the loser's point, but learning that the Devils got no points in Boston and that the Jets and Hurricanes lost might have reminded them that it's better to go up, even minutely, than stay still at this time of year.
"We'll glance at the standings," Okposo said, "but we're focused on what we have to do. That's how you need to be to get into the playoffs. We take care of what we need to do."
Holtby was the one to keep it a one-goal game the remainder of the second. His best stops were during a four-on-four situation, stopping Frans Nielsen from in close and then Andrew MacDonald from the point despite the goaltender being out of position.
Tavares had a frustrating night, bounced around and given an extra shove at every opportunity. Troy Brouwer gave Tavares two extra shots while Tavares was still getting up from a hit, drawing a dog-pile response from the Isles late in the second.