UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Nicklas Backstrom scored 11:09 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Tuesday and tie the Eastern Conference First Round series.
About three minutes after Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak robbed Jason Chimera, Halak was screened by Joel Ward on Backstrom's shot from the point, and the Capitals avoided being down 3-1 in the series.
"To be honest with you, it's a good job by Ward in front of the net there," Backstrom said. "Without him there, it wouldn't be a goal. I would say it's his goal."
The best-of-7 returns to Verizon Center for Game 5 on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, MSG+, CSN-DC).
Alex Ovechkin scored and had an assist for Washington, and goalie Braden Holtby made 36 saves.
The Islanders were again on the wrong side of a play involving a broken stick. New York forward John Tavares had to try to defend Backstrom on the overtime goal after his stick broke along the right-wing boards.
"I've never seen anything like it, to be honest with you," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "That's the third goal now with a broken stick. We're all in good position, everybody's got good position, D-side positioning as we call it, and I don't know if he shoots the puck if Johnny's got stick on puck, but [Backstrom is] a smart player, he recognized that Johnny didn't have his stick. When he did, he got a puck to the net. It hit off a player and it goes in the back of the net. Two goals like that tonight."
Washington opened the scoring for the first time in the series when Ovechkin redirected John Carlson's shot from the point past Halak at 13:06 of the first period. It was Ovechkin's second goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"Huge game," Ovechkin said. "Enjoy the moment. Forget this game and get ready for the next one."
The Islanders tied it 1-1 with 12.6 seconds left in the first period when Casey Cizikas scored his first goal of the series. Cal Clutterbuck made a nifty move toward the slot and put a wrist shot on net that was denied by Holtby, but Cizikas quickly swatted the rebound over the goal line.
"Going into the next game, we focus on what we have to do and that's get pucks in deep and work extremely hard," Cizikas said. "I thought we did a good job of that tonight and it's just a tough outcome."
New York had plenty of opportunities to score in the second period, when Washington took three minor penalties before it was halfway through. But the Islanders went 0-for-3 and are 0-for-10 in the series.
"We didn't generate a whole lot," Capuano said. "When you look back at the game, that's the turning point for me."
Halak made his best save 8:16 into the third period; he dove across the crease to deny Marcus Johansson's redirection of a feed by Ovechkin during Washington's first power play.
Clutterbuck nearly put the Islanders in front 23 seconds later while shorthanded, but his wrist shot from the right circle hit the crossbar.
Holtby, who missed Game 2 because of an illness and made 40 saves in an overtime loss on Sunday, made 15 saves in the second period, 36 total.
"The first two games, we didn't have the real Holtby, and he didn't even play in Game 2," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I think he looks really strong right now and hopefully it will continue."
Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik rushed to the dressing room with 1:03 left in the first period after his face was cut by the skate blade of New York forward Nikolay Kulemin. Orpik returned for the start of the second.
Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky left the game with 14:06 remaining in the second after being hit hard by Capitals forward Tom Wilson behind the Islanders net. Wilson received a minor penalty for charging; Visnovsky did not return. Capuano did not have an update on Visnovsky's condition after the game.
"Our guys gave it everything they got, but you're not going to play a 60-plus minute game … it gets real grueling on our defense," Capuano said. "They played a lot of minutes. We had a lot of guys play a lot of power-play time too. I give credit, but it is tough when you go down to five. I thought they did a pretty good job for us."
The Capitals braved another hostile environment on Tuesday but this time managed to get the win after losing Game 3 2-1 in overtime on Sunday.
"It's a better feeling to go back home when the series is tied," Backstrom said. "Hopefully [the] Washington crowd will be excited. It’s going to be a good feeling coming home."
The Capitals played without forward Eric Fehr, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 3. He was replaced by Michael Latta. Left wing Andre Burakovsky made his postseason debut and replaced Curtis Glencross, who was a healthy scratch. Glencross did not have a point and was minus-3 through the first three games.