UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the deciding goal of the shootout, giving the Washington Capitals a 1-0 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night to reclaim sole possession of the first place in the East Division. Ilya Samsonov stopped 26 shots through overtime for his second shutout of the season and third of his career. Washington won for the seventh time in 11 games.
Semyon Varlamov, who had a 29-save shutout in the teams’ last meeting on April 6, finished with 28 saves through overtime in this one. However, he gave up two goals on three attempts in the shootout.
The Islanders fell one point behind the Capitals, tied for second place with Pittsburgh, beating New Jersey 5-1. Boston is another three points back in fourth.
After Anthony Beauvilier beat Samsonov with a backhand in the second round of the tiebreaker, Nicklas Backstrom scored off the crossbar and in to tie it. Brock Nelson misfired on the Islanders’ attempt in the third round before Kuznetsov beat Varlamov on the stick side to win the Capitals.
The Islanders controlled the puck for most of the extra period, with each team managing one shot on goal. The Capitals also had a blast by Lars Eller go wide.
The teams meet Saturday again back at the Nassau Coliseum and Tuesday in Washington.
After a Capitals turnover late in the third, Mathew Barzal skated in, got around Dmitry Orlov, and skated in on Samsonov but lifted a forehand shot over the goal with 4:15 left.
Varlamov saved off the shaft of his stick on a shot by Orlov about 2 minutes later. T.J. Oshie had two tries in close from the right side with 1:30 left but could(t get anything past the Islanders‘ goalie.
Much like the teams’ last matchup, this game was scoreless after two periods. The Islanders won that previous meeting 1-0, with Nelson scoring the game’s only goal in the third period. After getting outworked in the first period, Washington flipped the script in the second and outshot New York 14-7.
The Islanders outshot the Capitals 15-4 in a fast-paced and physical first period. Barzal had the Islanders’ best scoring chance as he skated in alone on Samsonov on a breakaway but was denied by the Capitals goalie.
Washington defenseman Nick Jensen hobbled off the ice midway through the first period after getting hit in his foot by a slap shot from Ryan Pulock. He returned later.
The Capitals came in with the league’s top power play at 27.6%, converting 10 for 23 over their last five games. However, they went 0 for 3 against an Islanders penalty-kill that was 10th at 82.5%; New York has allowed only one goal on their opponents’ last 24 power plays in the previous 10 games.
After missing the last three games, Cal Clutterbuck returned to the Islanders’ fourth line with Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin. Leo Komarov stayed in and moved up to the top line with Barzal and Jordan Eberle. Travis Zajac was scratched. Veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to the Capitals’ lineup after missing Sunday’s 6-3 loss at Boston. Chara played in his 1,599th career game. Out with a lower-body injury sustained early in Sunday’s game, Justin Schultz did not accompany the team to New York. He is also expected to miss Saturday’s game against the Islanders. LW Michael Raffl, acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, made his Capitals debut.
THREE IN A ROW
The Capitals are playing the same team in three straight games for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time in 15 years. They lost all three vs. Tampa Bay in February 1998, won two out of three vs. Atlanta in January 2000, and went 0-1-2 vs. Carolina in April 2006.
The Islanders are also playing the same opponent for the fourth time — the third time this season. They swept a three-game series with Buffalo on March 4-7 and won two out of three against Philadelphia from March 18-22. The Islanders also lost two out of three against New Jersey in March 2012.
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