WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin made NHL history with career goal No. 767, helping to likely extinguishing any (extremely) slim playoff hopes the Islanders may have harbored.
The Islanders needed a regulation win, plain and simple. Instead, they lost a 4-3, eight-round shootout on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena to fall 19 points behind the Capitals for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot.
"We’ve said a couple of times we’ve done good things and didn’t get the result," said Brock Nelson, who tied the game at 1 at 4:55 of the first period and nearly had a second goal in the second period when his shot rang off both posts. "Just putting it bluntly, knowing where we’re at and the time of the year, yeah, we’d like to have that one in regulation for sure."
Instead, the Islanders (24-24-9), now 1-6 in shootouts and 5-19-3 against teams holding playoff positions, were denied their first four-game winning streak of the season. Anthony Mantha scored the decisive shootout goal after also making it 1-0 at 12:21 of the first period.
Ovechkin moved past Jaromir Jagr for third place on the NHL’s all-time list, lifting a shot to make it 3-2 at 15:02 of the third period. But captain Anders Lee, with the Islanders skating six-on-five, tied it at 18:01 to salvage a point.
"I thought we played a pretty good game," coach Barry Trotz said. "We could be sitting here with two points. We found a way six-on-five to get that point and I think we had three, maybe four cracks in overtime. A regulation win would have been nice but we didn’t get it so we just move on. We’ll just take the point."
And, possibly, Semyon Varlamov’s strong 29-save performance, including brilliant saves on defenseman Justin Schultz, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ovechkin in overtime, was a good showcase in advance of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello is expected to be a seller in advance of Monday’s NHL trade deadline and several playoff contenders need goaltending help. Varlamov’s four-year, $20 million contract, which makes him a pricy backup if Ilya Sorokin continues to establish himself as a No. 1 goalie, runs through next season. Lamoriello could determine his trade value is higher now, with some contenders unsettled in net, than it will be in the offseason.
Vitek Vanecek also made 29 saves for the Capitals (33-18-10).
Varlamov had little chance as the Capitals tied it at 2 at 10:13 of the third period, with defenseman Dmitry Orlov feeding Axel Jonsson-Fjallby off a rush.
Kyle Palmieri then gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 17:02 of the second period, getting to the crease for Josh Bailey’s feed after Bailey deftly stickhandled through traffic.
"It could have gone either way," Bailey said. "It seems like every time we play those games we have a hard-fought matchup. It didn’t go completely our way tonight. We would have liked to finish it in the shootout."
The teams play twice more with a home-and-home series the final week of the season.