Analysis of the Capitals’ come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders Saturday at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.:
How it happened: Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his third NHL goal in the opening period then finished off the Caps’ two-goal comeback by netting the only goal of the shootout to end a five-game losing streak by the Capitals.
What it means: The Caps pulled within two points of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who face the Islanders at home on Sunday. The Caps have four games to play; the Jackets have five.
Green down: Caps defenseman Mike Green was involved in a few collisions in the first period, one of them involving teammate Jason Chimera in front of the Capitals net. Green did not return for the remainder of the game, but Caps coach Adam Oates told reporters after the game his injury was not the result of his collision with Chimera.
Kuznetsov up: With nothing to lose and everything to gain, Oates bumped Evgeny Kuznetsov onto a second line with left wing Marcus Johansson and right wing Troy Brouwer and the three combined for an even-strength goal 2:36 into the second period for Kuznetsov’s third goal of the season. Kuznetsov actually set up a tap-in by Johansson, but when he missed the net Kuznetsov shot the puck into the empty cage.
Shootout choices: With two very crucial points on the line, Oates went with Kuznetsov as his first shooter and it paid off when the 21-year-old Russian beat Evgeni Nabokov for his third shootout goal on five attempts this season. Oates went with Mikhail Grabovski, who was stopped by Nabokov, but it didn’t matter because Braden Holtby stopped the NHL’s top active shootout specialist, Frans Nielsen, then shut the door on Ryan Strome and Brokc Nelson, who was 2-for-2 in his previous shootout attempts.
Ice in his veins: With his shootout victory, Holtby is now 10-3 in career shootouts with the Caps, stopping 32 of 46 shots.
No Penner: Caps left wing Dustin Penner was scratched with what the club was calling an upper body injury. Penner also missed Tuesday night’s game against the Kings, saying an MRI came back negative before that game. With Penner not in the lineup, Aaron Volpatti played his first game since Feb. 2 when he injured his shoulder. Volpatti played 9:22 on a fourth line with center Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.
Puck luck: If the Caps happen to find their way into the playoffs they’ll thank the hockey gods that helped them storm back from a 3-1 deficit with a pair of goals in the second period. The Caps drew within 3-2 when Alex Ovechkin’s shot hit Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan and onto the stick of teammate Nicklas Backstrom, who scored with 7:15 left. A few minutes later a bouncing puck landed onto the stick of Joel Ward, who shot through Nabokov's legs to draw the Caps even in a second period that featured five goals.
Ovi watch: Ovechkin failed to pick up his 50th goal, but he had an even-strength assist and was even in the plus-minus column, keeping him at a minus-35. He recorded 14 attempts at the net, with seven of them blocked and four missing the net. He also dished out two hits and blocked a shot.
What’s next: The Caps return home for a complete day off on Sunday, then hit the ice Monday at Kettler for a practice before hitting the road for games in St. Louis and Carolina. Essentially, the Caps need to win their final four games to have a shot at a seventh straight berth in the playoffs. Will it be Braden Holtby or Jaroslav Halak down the stretch?