WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Capitals scored 13 goals in two games against the New York Islanders, and Alex Ovechkin accounted for none of them.
T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as Washington swept a home-and-home set against the skidding Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.
Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana’s goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining, and Lars Eller added an empty-netter.
“It’s very important to have balance. I don’t think anyone here is worried about (Ovechkin) not scoring, but it is good we have other guys stepping up,” Oshie said. “That’s important. We want confidence throughout the lineup offensively going into the postseason.”
Braden Holtby gained confidence in his return to the lineup. The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender had lost seven of eight and did not play in the previous four games. Holtby made 22 saves against the Islanders in his first game since March 6.
“I felt a lot better,” he said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before. You get refreshed from a week off work.”
Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals’ four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.
Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington’s second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Kuznetsov is day-to-day and would be re-evaluated Saturday.
Kuznetsov had two assists before exiting. In the final seconds of the second period, he smashed into the boards behind the Islanders net as New York’s Thomas Hickey was called for a slashing penalty. The slow-rising Kuznetsov eventually skated off and headed straight toward the locker room.
The Islanders were called for 11 penalties that totaled 41 minutes one night after a lopsided loss. Ross Johnston received a game misconduct following a fight with Washington’s Tom Wilson.
“You can’t sit in the box against that team,” Islanders coach Doug Weight said. “We battled. It wasn’t as hard as we wanted to play in the first, but we took three penalties and guys battled physically, they worked hard. They’ll probably say it was an easy game, but we worked hard.”
Philipp Grubauer, tied for fourth in the league with a 2.26 goals-against average, went 3-1 in net for Washington over the previous four games. Trotz would not commit to a starting goaltender for Sunday’s pivotal matchup at Philadelphia.
The good news for Washington is that Holtby’s performance makes the decision difficult.
“I thought (Holtby) was pretty solid. He looked really confident,” Trotz said. “You could tell by his play with the puck in the corner on the power play the one time. He’s feeling some confidence, so that’s good.”
Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak made 25 saves. New York has given up at least five goals in 20 games this season.
“Try to come in here and play for each other,” Nelson said of New York’s motivation with postseason hopes rapidly fading. “We are where we are. It’s tough. But you’ve got to go out there and be professional and do your job and work every day.”
Oshie redirected Ovechkin’s shot past Halak for a power-play goal in the first period. Oshie has three goals in two games after a 19-game drought.
Barzal’s unassisted goal with 14:30 remaining in the second tied the score at 1. The tie did not last long as Washington took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play. Backstrom’s persistent jabbing at a loose puck in front of Halak led to a 2-1 lead with 7:12 left in the second.
NOTES: Nelson and Tavares scored power-play goals. … The Capitals won the season series 3-1. … Washington honored Ovechkin before the game for scoring his 600th goal Monday against Winnipeg. … The Capitals scratched forward Brett Connolly, center Chandler Stephenson and defenseman Jakub Jerabek. Connolly has 14 goals this season. Washington D Christian Djoos played for the first time since March 6. … The Islanders scratched defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, defenseman Sebastian Ho and forward Chris Wagner.
Islanders: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.
Capitals: At the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
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