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Capitals tie it late, win in OT
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Winning in nail-biting fashion is nothing new for the Washington Capitals. The New York Islanders, meanwhile, keep coming up with unique ways to suffer agonizing losses.
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom forced overtime with a short-handed goal in the final minute of regulation Saturday night and left winger Alex Ovechkin's goal with 2:53 left in overtime lifted the Capitals past the Islanders 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Capitals improved to 8-2 in overtime games this season, including going 6-2 in November. In five of those wins, the Capitals forced overtime by scoring with less than six minutes left in regulation -- including Friday night when center Mikhail Grabovski scored with 5:32 left in the third period of the Capitals' 3-2 shootout win over Montreal,
But even Capitals coach Adam Oates figured Washington had dug itself a hole it couldn't escape when Islanders left winger Thomas Vanek poked back a rebound with 1:51 left Saturday to put New York ahead 2-1.
"We've been on the wrong side of that a couple times this year," said Oates. "And it looked like it was going to happen again tonight. For some reason we got lucky and got it done. So we'll take it."
The Capitals capitalized on a bit of chicanery by defenseman Mike Green to set up the tying goal. Washington pulled goaltender Braden Holtby almost immediately after Vanek's goal. Seconds later, Green threw himself at the empty net as a puck skittered toward it.
"The game's amazing," Oates said. "'Greenie' got a penalty on the empty netter and probably saves us the game."
Twenty-one seconds later, Backstrom scored the tying goal off a pass from left winger Jason Chimera. Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner set up the play by emerging from a scrum along the boards behind the Islanders' net and firing a pass to Chimera.
"It happened so late, we didn't have time to think about it," Oates said. "We had to try and get a goal real quick. Probably put (the Islanders) on their heels -- sometimes the power play relaxes (teams). Knowing the score late, we just capitalized on it. Great play by all three guys."
The Islanders had the first opportunities in overtime before Ovechkin's goal -- off a pass from Grabovski -- threaded a trio of players in front of the net and whistled past Islanders goalie Andres Nilsson.
"Seems like luck was on our side this time," Ovechkin said. "It's a big two points for us."
The Islanders (8-15-4) earned their first point since Nov. 16 but lost their sixth straight as another disastrous November came to a close. New York, which is 9-24-6 in November since 2010, suffered six multi-goal losses in going 4-10-1 this month.
"You want to get a point, it's just the way that it happened is frustrating," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
The Islanders lost despite producing one of their best defensive efforts of the month. New York gave up at least four goals in nine November games.
"We defended hard," Capuano said. "They've got some skilled guys. I thought we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish tonight. (We) got the lead in the third. (It's) just frustrating that it has to end that way."
Left winger Aaron Volpatti scored in the second period for the Capitals while Islanders right winger Cal Clutterbuck tied it with a short-handed goal 3:59 into the third period.
The goal by Vanek gave the Islanders their first lead during their current losing streak, a span of 358 minutes and eight seconds.
Holtby had 37 saves while Nilsson, making his first NHL start since March 10, 2012, made 27 saves.
NOTES: Prior to the game, the Capitals recalled G Philipp Grubauer from Hershey of the AHL and sent C Michael Latta to the same affiliate. Grubauer replaces G Michael Neuvirth, who injured his right leg during warmups before Friday's game against Montreal. With Neuvirth out, the Capitals' backup goaltender on Friday was their video coach, Brett Leonhardt. ... In addition to Neuvirth, the Capitals also scratched C Brooks Laich, D Steve Olesky and D Alexander Urbom. Laich missed the last two games with a lower-body injury while Olesky and Urbom were healthy scratches. ... The Islanders had a trio of healthy scratches -- LW Eric Boulton, D Radek Martinek and C Brock Nelson. ... D Calvin de Haan, whom the Islanders recalled from AHL Bridgeport on Thursday, appeared in his first NHL game since his debut Dec. 15, 2011. He missed most of last season due to a shoulder injury. ... The Islanders and Capitals are division rivals this season for the first time since 1997-98, the year before the Capitals were shifted from the Atlantic Division to the Southeast Division.