Washington Capitals vault into first with shootout victory over New York Islanders

Apr 22, 2021; Uniondale, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Andy Greene (4) is checked into the boards by Washington Capitals center Nic Dowd (26) during the first period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov was the shootout hero while goaltender Ilya Samsonov recorded the shutout as the visiting Washington Capitals claimed a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday.

The Caps (30-13-4, 64 points) took sole possession of first place in the East Division standings.

Kuznetsov won the game in the third round of the shootout when he went wide to his weak side, cut to the middle and then snapped a high shot home for the winner.

Nicklas Backstrom also scored in the shootout for Washington, while Anthony Beauvillier was the lone Islanders skater to find the mark in the shootout.

Samsonov, who was especially sharp in the first period with 15 saves, finished with 26 saves through overtime and stopped two of three Islanders in the shootout for his second shutout this season and third of his career.

He also made a point-blank left pad stop on Kyle Palmieri during a New York power play midway through the third period and then on Jordan Eberle late in overtime, which the hosts held possession of the puck almost the whole five minutes.

The Capitals have won four of the six meetings this season. They have a one-point edge on the Islanders (29-13-5, 63 points) and Pittsburgh Penguins (30-14-3, 63 points). The Boston Bruins (27-12-6, 60 points) are fourth in the ultra-tight division race.

Semyon Varlamov took the loss but officially recorded his fifth shutout of the season and 32nd of his career by making 28 saves through overtime. Varlamov’s busiest period was the second in which he stopped 14 shots, though he was called upon to make a few clutch saves late in regulation, including a golden chance for T.J. Oshie in the final two minutes.

The clubs will meet again Saturday night on Long Island before facing each other for the last time in the regular season Tuesday in Washington.

The game also saw Michael Raffl, acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline, made his debut for the Capitals. Raffl skated mainly on a line with Conor Sheary and Lars Eller.

The news wasn’t as positive for Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz, who suffered a lower-body injury last game and didn’t make the trip to New York. Zdeno Chara stepped back into the Washington lineup.

–Field Level Media