Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin celebrates with teammates after an NHL...

Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin celebrates with teammates after an NHL game against the Capitals on Wednesday in Washington. Credit: AP/Nick Wass

WASHINGTON — The odds indicate the Islanders will qualify for the playoffs. But Wednesday night reinforced what this whole season has showed: It ain’t gonna be easy.

The Islanders opened a three-game road trip with a tightly-played 2-1 shootout win over the Capitals at Capital One Arena, their first shootout victory in six tries this season.

"Finally, yeah,” said Ilya Sorokin who made 25 saves and was spectacular in the three-on-three overtime with four stops, including against Alex Ovechkin at close range. “It’s nice [to get] two goals in the shootout. It’s what I needed. Good win for us."

Bo Horvat and Kyle Palmieri scored in the shootout after Evgeny Kuznetsov, skating in painfully slowly, scored in the first round. Sorokin stopped Nicklas Backstrom to seal the win.

“We’ve needed it and I thought the guys did a real good job,” coach Lane Lambert said. “Bo and Kyle and then Ilya in net. So it’s an important [extra] point for us for sure.”

The Islanders (39-28-9), with six games remaining, now have a five-point edge over the idle Penguins for the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, though the Penguins have played two fewer games. The Panthers, who have played one fewer game than the Islanders, moved within a point of the Penguins with a 3-2 overtime win in Toronto.

“It definitely felt good to go in,” said Horvat, who also had an empty-netter in Monday’s 5-1 win over the Devils at UBS Arena for his first goal in 12 games. “I had a couple of looks there in overtime that I wish would’ve went in. But I ended up getting back there in the shootout so it definitely felt good. And Palmsie made a heck of a move there to end it.”

The Islanders entered Wednesday with a 92.8% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, per, a stark turnaround since a 2-8-3 skid to start 2023 left them six points out of a postseason spot on Jan. 26.

Darcy Kuemper made 28 saves for the Capitals (34-32-9), who likely must win all their remaining games to have a chance at the postseason.

The Islanders outshot the Capitals 15-5 in the third period, taking the first 10 shots before T.J. Oshie tipped the puck on net at 11:43. The Capitals, who blocked 21 of their 27 shots over the first two periods, limited the Islanders to 11 shots over the first 40 minutes.

“I think they did what we did to them,” said Pierre Engvall, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead at 3:52 of the second on the Islanders’ second shot of the period after a shot drought of 16:56 between the first and second periods.

“We stayed above and didn’t give them many chances. I think they took after us and did the same thing. It wasn’t easy creating scoring chances but we got the points and it feels good.”

The goal was Engvall’s fourth against Kuemper on four career shots. That streak was snapped when Kuemper smothered Engvall’s wrister from the same spot at 8:01 of the second period.

By then, the Capitals had tied it at 1-1 as Conor Sheary got to the slot and shoveled a backhander past Sorokin’s blocker at 6:22.

“I thought the game was tight all the way,” Lambert said. “I thought we played a real good first period, road period. There weren’t many chances either way and then we started to get in a little bit more on them and maybe make them uncomfortable, get a couple of turnovers and things like that in the third. I thought we played real well in the third period.”

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