WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Capitals made up for 56 1/2 minutes of frustration with a 5-minute burst that provided a desperate team an improbable, uplifting victory.
There’s no telling whether Washington’s 3-2 comeback win in overtime against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night will become a turning point in the Capitals’ scramble to earn a playoff berth.
But the two points sure couldn’t hurt.
Blanked by New York’s Evgeni Nabokov deep into the third period, the Capitals got two goals from Troy Brouwer in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation before Alex Ovechkin scored at 1:35 of overtime to win it. It was Washington’s third straight victory — its longest winning streak since an identical run in mid-January.
“It’s a big two points,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. “Their goalie was putting together a good game. You could see it was going to take a special play to get a goal on him.”
For much of the game, it seemed as if Washington wasn’t going to score even once, let alone three times.
Brouwer cut the deficit to 2-1 with 3:29 left in regulation with a shot from the right of the net, after taking an excellent crossing pass from Mathieu Perreault.
“Unfortunately, it took us 57 minutes to do it,” Brouwer said. “When time is running down, it’s always tough to know if you are going to be able to get that second one.”
After Hunter pulled goalie Michal Neuvirth, Brouwer deflected a shot by Brooks Laich past Nabokov to tie it with 25.5 seconds to play.
In overtime, Ovechkin entered the New York zone from the left side and fired a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that found the back of the net.
“It was a huge victory for us,” Ovechkin said. “We needed one goal, and Brouwer got it, and got a second one. Now we are in OT, and I had a lucky goal. I tried probably three times today to get the shot through.”
The Capitals couldn’t have asked for a better way to open a five-game homestand. The victory pushed Washington past Winnipeg into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and kept the Capitals three points behind first-place Florida in the Southeast Division.
“You look at the guys’ faces and there was excitement and joy and relief and accomplishment,” Laich said. “Everything was there.”
Neuvirth, who stopped 22 shots, said, “It shows a lot. This team never quit.”
Washington was 0-3 against the Islanders, the only Eastern Conference team it had failed to defeat this season.
It was the fourth straight road loss for the Islanders, who were 13-1-5 when leading after two periods. Nabokov appeared headed for his 53rd career shutout, but instead fell to 10-2 lifetime against the Capitals.
“We’ve just got to regroup,” New York coach Jack Capuano said.
Josh Bailey, who scored the Islanders’ first goal, said, “It was tough to break down late in the game like that.”
Washington outshot New York 13-3 in the first period, but the Islanders took a 1-0 lead on Bailey’s seventh of the season. Bailey faked a shot from the top of the right circle, then skated down the middle and deked Neuvirth before pumping in a wrister from the slot at 4:14.
It was the Islanders’ second shot of the game; the next didn’t come until 18:22. Washington managed only two shots during two power-play opportunities over the first 20 minutes.
“They had some chances in the first period,” Capuano said of the Capitals. “But Nabokov made some big saves for us.”
The second period wasn’t much different in that the Capitals still couldn’t find a way to score. After New York took the first five shots of the period, Washington’s Mike Green finally tested Nabokov with a long-range wrist shot at 9:03 during what turned out to be another futile power play.
Matt Moulson made it 2-0 at 2:16 of the third period, deflecting a shot by Steve Staios over Neuvirth’s left shoulder.
NOTES: Islanders C Frans Nielsen played in his 300th NHL game, all with New York. … Neuvirth improved to 4-0 against the Islanders. … Moulson has 27 goals but only four in February. … Brouwer has 17 goals, matching his total from all of last season.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)