AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON — Mike Green scored his fifth goal in four games, Braden Holtby made 35 saves and then was perfect in the shootout, and the Washington Capitals’ long, slow comeback toward a playoff spot took another big step Thursday night with a 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders.
Holtby denied Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes and John Tavares in the shootout for the Capitals, who moved into a tie on points with Winnipeg atop the Southeast Division after the Jets lost 4-1 at Montreal.
Either way, Washington will still have two games in hand against Winnipeg, a major turnaround for a Capitals team that started 2-8-1. They’ve won six of their last eight.
Green scored on a wrister from the right circle with 13 seconds remaining in the first period, and Alex Ovechkin was the only player from either team to find the net in the shootout.
The Islanders tied the game on Kyle Okposo’s one-timer with 4:59 to play in regulation.
The workhouse during the Capitals’ recent surge, Holtby made his 10th consecutive start and nearly recorded his fifth shutout of the season. The Islanders tested seemingly every reflex he had, whether it was sliding left to blunt Keith Aucoin’s attempted tap-in at the edge of the crease in the first period or sticking out his right pad to thwart Andrew MacDonald’s blast during a four-on-four sequence in the second.
Evgeni Nabokov was Holtby’s equal, making 21 stops in a game that was just as crucial for the surging Islanders. New York, trying to make playoffs for first time since 2007, had won five of six and picked up a standings point to move into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Tavares, who had nine goals in his previous 13 games, was bottled up by the Capitals and managed only one shot on goal. He was also stuffed by Holtby on the final attempt in the shootout.
Other than the shootout, Ovechkin was also kept off the score sheet, ending his points streak at nine games.
Forward Martin Erat, acquired at Wednesday’s trade deadline from the Nashville Predators to bolster the Capitals’ playoff chances, played 14:43 in his Washington debut.
Notes: Capitals RW Eric Fehr returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. ... With Erat in the lineup, Washington LW Jason Chimera was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. ... Nabokov is 12-1-3 with two shutouts in 16 career starts against the Capitals. ... Green was whistled for delay of game when he cleared the puck over the glass from the Capitals’ defensive zone with 2:52 remaining in regulation, but Washington killed off the penalty.
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