NEW YORK -- Earlier this month, when Adam Oates was asked about the Capitals being the only team in the NHL that had not participated in a shootout, he said, “I know the fans get excited, but we don’t really like it.”
Maybe not, but you couldn’t wipe the smiles off the faces of the Capitals when they saw Nicklas Backstrom beat Swedish countryman Henrik Lundqvist with a quick snap shot, giving the Caps a 3-2 shootout win over the New York Rangers Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin scored in regulation, then beat Lundquist again in the shootout to give the Caps a hard-fought two points in the Eastern Conference standings, where they moved into 10th place with a 15-16-1 record and 31 points.
They are now one point behind the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes, two points behind the eighth-place Rangers and five behind the Southeast Division-leading Winnipeg Jets.
“It's a great step forward for our club right now,” said Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “We're trying to get ourselves into a playoff spot."
The Capitals concluded their make-or-break, four-game road trip with a 3-1-0 record and their only loss – a 2-1 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh – was described by Oates as their best game of the season.
“It’s not just that we got six out of eight points,” Backstrom said. “We played better as a team.”
With 16 games remaining, the Caps still have a long way to go before they can rest. The Islanders come to Verizon Center on Tuesday night and they are locked in a tie with the Caps with 31 points after their 3-0 win over Florida on Sunday.
If the Caps can pull out a win over the Isles they’ll be at .500 for the first time since starting the season 0-0-0.
"We're still humble,” Brooks Laich said. “We're not gonna hurt our arms patting ourselves on the back by any means."