WASHINGTON (AP) — The mood in the Washington dressing room between the first and second periods was quite somber after the host Capitals blew a two-goal lead to the streaking New York Islanders in less than a minute.
However, the Capitals regrouped and went on to a 5-2 victory on Friday night to gain a split of the home-and-home series.
"We went back in the room and it was pretty quiet," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "We said, `Listen, it's a 40-minute game now. Let's look at it that way. We've got to win a period and then we'll be back to where we want to be."'
Alex Ovechkin got the message loud and clear.
Ovechkin scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period, and Matt Niskanen chipped in with three assists.
Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist, and Andre Burakovsky and Joel Ward also scored for Washington. Ovechkin has four goals in his last three games.
Braden Holtby stopped 26 shots and has a 1.86 goals-against average over his last seven games.
After a 3-2 overtime loss on Long Island on Wednesday night, the Capitals bounced back to beat the team right above them in the standings.
"You go into this obviously looking for four points when you play someone, and we got three," Trotz said. "We gained a little ground, but importantly, we didn't lose any ground."
John Tavares and Anders Lee scored for New York, and Chad Johnson made 22 saves. The Islanders, who began play tied with Pittsburgh in points atop the Metropolitan Division, had won five straight and 10 of 11.
"We didn't handle the puck the way we wanted to. It was sloppy," Lee said.
The Capitals took a 3-2 lead at 9:53 of the second when Tom Wilson skated across the blue line and passed to Ovechkin, who fired a shot past Johnson from the right circle for his 12th goal.
Kuznetsov sent a drive over Johnson's shoulder to make it 4-2 at 5:56 of the third, and Ward added an empty-net goal.
The Islanders will look to get back to their winning ways when they host New Jersey on Saturday night.
"I think we know that we haven't played at the top of the game, maybe for the last couple," Tavares said, "I think we should be itching to get back home, back in front of our crowd and obviously (against) a team that we see a lot - the Devils."
Washington didn't have a shot until 10:01 of the first period, but a hooking call against Matt Martin gave its second-ranked power play unit a shot at New York's 29th-ranked penalty killers. Just 31 seconds later, the Capitals opened the scoring when Niskanen's slapper was deflected home by Burakovsky.
Johansson's ninth goal made it 2-0 at 18:27. The Capitals had gone nearly 150 minutes over parts of four games since their previous even-strength goal.
New York, which outshot Washington 11-5 in the first period, needed just 35 seconds to tie it. Tavares, alone to the left of Holtby, banged in a rebound for his 10th of the season with 1:02 remaining.
Then, with 27 seconds left in the period, Lee eluded Capitals defenders to Holtby's right and redirected in a deflected puck sent toward the net by Travis Hamonic to make it 2-2.
"That could have been deflating," Niskanen said, "We had a good response the rest of the game with a really urgent effort from everybody. We needed that one."
NOTES: New York D Lubomir Visnovsky left in the second period with an upper-body injury and didn't return. Washington F Brooks Laich (shoulder) returned to the lineup after missing 15 of the last 16 games. D Mike Green (upper-body injury) missed his second straight. … Holtby passed Pat Riggin for sixth place on the Capitals' franchise wins list with 68. … Jack Capuano coached his 300th game with the Islanders. He is 134-127-39.