New York Rangers' Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello celebrate Marian...

New York Rangers' Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello celebrate Marian Gaborik's goal against New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov in overtime. (March 11, 2012) Credit: AP

The Islanders still are mathematically alive in the playoff race, they choose to believe, even though the results and the standings tell them differently.

"You have to stay positive and keep moving forward," Jack Capuano said before Sunday night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers. "It's not a time to think about anything else except what's right in front of you."

So that means Tuesday night's game against the Capitals at the Coliseum is a chance to take two points from the team that sits in eighth in the East, and not another game against a rival that could prove disastrous.

The Islanders' 3-6-2 slide to just one point clear of last in the East has been filled with various ways to cough up points.

This past weekend provided the latest two examples. Two goals in 14 seconds in the final 1:39 turned a 1-0 lead over the Devils into a 2-1 regulation loss Saturday. On Sunday, the Islanders took a lead into the third period and ended up with only one point.

The last game with Washington still should be fresh in the Isles' memories, too. They stymied the Caps for 56:31, but Troy Brouwer's two goals in the final 3:29, followed by Alex Ovechkin's OT winner, really put a dent in the Isles' playoff hopes.

Had they won that game in Washington on Feb. 28, the Isles would have been five points behind the then-ninth- place Capitals with a head of steam to finish off their difficult road trip. They were beaten in Philadelphia two nights later and, despite winning their next two, stumbled through their three games against local rivals this past week, getting only one point out of six.

"We've got to do better in a lot of areas," P.A. Parenteau said after Sunday's loss. "We know we can be a good team because we have been at times this year. It's not going right for us now."

With 13 games to go and with 10 points and five teams separating them from eighth, the Islanders' belief in their playoff hopes isn't shared by many others. At the very least, they need to play like contenders to show that this team's high points this season were no fluke.

Notes & quotes: Forward Micheal Haley and goalie Anders Nilsson were returned to Bridgeport Monday. Goalie Al Montoya (upper body) and forwards Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas (flu) are ready to return.

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