WASHINGTON — Playing without injured captain Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals missed an opportunity to move up in the standings with a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
The Capitals blew a lead and gave up four unanswered goals to an opponent that has long been out of playoff contention. They allowed power-play goals to Ryan Pulock and Noah Dobson, goaltender Ilya Samsonov botched a puck-handling attempt behind the net to help Casey Cizikas score short-handed and Tom Wilson turned the puck over to Anders Lee for New York’s fourth goal of the game.
Washington failed to pass rival Pittsburgh for third place in the Metropolitan Division after the Penguins lost at home to Edmonton, but the Caps still have two more chances before the end of the regular season.
Ilya Sorokin made 32 saves to help the Islanders snap a five-game losing streak near the end of what has turned into a lost season a year after reaching the East final. They played a forward short with 17 skaters instead of the usual 18 after Brock Nelson and Zdeno Chara were ruled out because of illness.
Ovechkin has what the team is calling an upper-body injury, which he suffered when he slammed into the boards, left shoulder first, on Sunday. He’s listed as day to day, though Ovechkin’s status for the start of the playoffs next week is uncertain .
Taking care of business against the Islanders would have put the Capitals in position to wrap up third in the Metro when these teams face off again Thursday on Long Island. Now, it’ll come down to Friday to see whether Washington can avoid Eastern Conference- leading Florida and a more difficult path through the Atlantic Division side of the bracket.
On the way to a second tough loss in a row, the Capitals got a bit of a scare when winger TJ Oshie took a puck off his left foot and left the game briefly. Conor Sheary, who scored their only goal on a deflection in the first period, also went down late in the second blocking a shot but stayed in the game.
Washington is all too conscious of going into the postseason banged up after a barrage of injuries contributed to a first-round, five-game exit last year.
“We were in a really good spot, we got dinged up a little bit and those things nagged,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “You want to go in as healthy as you can and put your best foot forward with a healthy lineup.”
Ovechkin, 36, missed just his 25th game because of the injury and has never sat out in the playoffs for any reason.
The Capitals visit the Islanders at UBS Arena on Thursday night in the first half of a back-to-back set for each team to finish the season.
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