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game recap

Capitals defeat Islanders again, retake lead in East Division

Sprong scores twice in place of injured Ovechkin; Chara plays 1,600th NHL game

by Harvey Valentine / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

Sprong finishes Kuznetsov's feed

WSH@NYI: Sprong finishes Kuznetsov feed from in close

Daniel Sprong receives a centering pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and gets enough to deposit the puck into the net, giving the Capitals a 4-2 lead

  • 00:45 •

The Washington Capitals moved back into first place in the MassMutual East Division with their second straight win against the New York Islanders, 6-3 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on Saturday.

Daniel Sprong scored twice, and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and two assists for the Capitals (31-13-4), who are one point ahead of the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and three ahead of the Islanders. Ilya Samsonov made 21 saves.

Sprong was a fill-in on the Capitals' top forward line for Alex Ovechkin, who is day to day with a lower-body injury. He skated with center Kuznetsov and right wing Tom Wilson.

"We talked about whether or not he had played left wing in his past," Washington coach Peter Laviolette said of Sprong. "He said he had, and I thought he played a real good game. He was dangerous. He was attacking the game with speed as well. … So, we were able to keep the lines intact, get contributions from everywhere, and that line was good in Alex's absence."

Zdeno Chara became the fifth defenseman to play 1,600 NHL games. He was plus-2 in 19:42 of ice time for the Capitals.

Ilya Sorokin allowed six goals on 30 shots for the Islanders (29-14-5), who have lost four of six. It was his first home loss in nine starts this season.

"We need all our lines going," New York coach Barry Trotz said. "[If not], it's impossible to beat a team that's pushing. I thought for them, they had all four lines going, and for us, I didn't feel like we had all four lines going. I felt like we might have had two."

Video: WSH@NYI: Kuznetsov beats Sorokin blocker side on rush

It was the Capitals' second straight win at New York following a 1-0 shootout victory Thursday. The teams play again at Washington on Tuesday.

"It's a team, of course, that's good at home, and this is a team that we can face in the playoffs," Sprong said. "So, it's big for us here to get two road wins in a hard building to play in, and now we've got another game against them at home."

Ovechkin hadn't missed a game due to injury since March 5, 2015; he missed four games earlier this season while in NHL COVID-19 protocol. His status for the conclusion of the three-game set is uncertain.

"I think with some injuries, you don't know what's going to go on, whether somebody's going to be available or not available, and that's why I think people say, 'day to day', because they're unsure," Laviolette said. "Will he be there for the next game? I'm not sure at this point. So, we'll err on the side of caution at this point in the season. We're not going to risk anything as we head towards the playoffs, but hopefully he continues to improve."

Garnet Hathaway gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead when his long shot eluded Sorokin at 2:33 of the first period. It was his first goal since March 15 (18 games).

T.J. Oshie made it 2-0 at 10:55. Nicklas Backstrom worked a give-and-go near the blue line with Anthony Mantha, taking the return pass in the left circle and feeding Oshie in front.

"I think we had a good start today," Kuznetsov said. "We kind of played not the best hockey last game in the first period, so today we [were] focusing on that and I think we generated some chances early in the game, and that gave us momentum."

Video: WSH@NYI: Oshie finishes Backstrom feed from in front

The Islanders cut it to 2-1 at 14:28 on the power play when Anthony Beauvillier scored on a backhand.

Adam Pelech tied it 2-2 with a shorthanded goal on a slap shot just inside the blue line at 7:37 of the second period.

Nic Dowd got to a loose puck in the left circle, spun and scored over Sorokin's shoulder to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead at 12:21.

Sprong made it 4-2 at 14:46 when he scored off a backhand pass from Kuznetsov.

"We get in those track meet kind of games, especially against a team like Washington, we're just not going to win many of them," Pelech said.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau cut it to 4-3 with a power-play goal at 17:12.

Kuznetsov beat Sorokin to the far side with a wrist shot from the right circle at 7:35 of the third period to make it 5-3, and Sprong scored his second of the game at 14:43 for the 6-3 final.

NOTES: The Capitals have won five of seven against the Islanders this season. … Kuznetsov has scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in his past four games. … It was Sprong's first multigoal game since Jan. 5, 2018, also against the Islanders, while playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins. ... Chara joined Chris Chelios (1,651), Scott Stevens (1,635), Larry Murphy (1,615) and Ray Bourque (1,612) as defensemen to play 1,600 NHL games.

Video: Kuznetsov, Sprong lead Capitals past Islanders, 6-3

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