Just when it appeared the New York Islanders were going to end their five-game losing streak, the Washington Capitals handed them arguably their most frustrating defeat yet.
Thomas Vanek broke a 1-1 tie at 18:09 of the third period, but Nicklas Backstrom tied it by scoring a shorthanded goal with 48.5 seconds remaining before Alex Ovechkin scored at 2:07 of overtime to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.
The Islanders (8-15-4) are winless in their past six games heading into a home game Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by a five-game trip against Western Conference teams. New York finished November with a 4-10-1 record. It opened the month with back-to-back victories.
"We finally get the lead and instead of keep playing hard, we sat back for no reason," Vanek said. "We should have took it to them for 60 minutes, and not 59."
Aaron Volpatti opened the scoring for Washington (14-11-2), which has won back-to-back games after losing four in a row. Braden Holtby stopped 37 of 39 shots for the victory.
Ovechkin won it for the Capitals with his 21st goal of the season. He took a pass from Mikhail Grabovski, got around Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic at the left circle and ripped a shot past goalie Anders Nilsson.
"I had some pretty good chances in the second," Ovechkin said. "We just tried to score goals 5-on-5. Of course, we don't forget about our zone, but [it's] our job to score."
Cal Clutterbuck scored shorthanded for the Islanders in the third period, ending their scoring drought at 109 minutes and 58 seconds.
Vanek scored what looked like it would be the game-winner with 1:51 left in regulation. Holtby stopped Vanek's initial shot from the left circle, but Vanek followed the play and ended up poking a loose puck on the doorstep over the goal line for his eighth goal.
Moments later, Capitals defenseman Mike Green was whistled for interference while trying to prevent an empty-net goal, putting the Islanders on the power play for the remainder of regulation. All they had to do was protect their one-goal lead.
"Obviously, we don't need a goal at that particular time," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We wanted to defend just like we defended all game. We got a little lazy. Obviously, we wanted to protect the danger area, and that's the spot we left open."
That's where Backstrom tied it with a shorthanded goal, one-timing Jason Chimera's feed past Nilsson at 19:11 to send the game to overtime.
"The game is amazing, eh?" Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "Greenie gets a penalty on the empty-netter, and it probably saved us the game. That's sports."
Volpatti broke a scoreless tie 8:58 into the second period. With the teams at even strength, Martin Erat skated behind the net with the puck before sending it out in front to Tom Wilson, who was denied by Nilsson. But Volpatti was also in front of the net and swatted the rebound over the goal line to give Washington a 1-0 lead. It was Volpatti's second goal of the season.
Clutterbuck ended the Islanders' scoring drought with a shorthanded goal at 3:59 of the third period. With Pierre-Marc Bouchard off for interference, Andrew MacDonald sent Clutterbuck on a breakaway, and the latter fired a wrist shot past Holtby to make it 1-1.
Nilsson finished with 27 saves in his first start of the season.
"That was probably one of the best third periods that we played all year," Capuano said. "The second got away from us a little bit, but we defended hard. They've got some skilled guys. I thought we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish tonight … we got the lead in the third. Frustrating that it has to end that way."
Material from team media was used in this report