LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals made more beautiful passes, set up more wonderful scoring opportunities than their fans -- what there were of them last night -- had seen in a long time.
But an elusive slap shot that went off the arm of New York Islanders goalie Tommy Soderstrom with 6:52 to go and slid ever so slowly through the crease and over the goal line kept the Capitals from defeat. That goal and sent the game to overtime, in which Steve Konowalchuk scored his second goal of the night with 2:44 left to lift the Caps to a 4-3 victory.
The Capitals (13-13-3) regained the .500 mark and extended their unbeaten streak to three games, 2-0-1, as they await the arrival of the New York Rangers tomorrow.
Washington outshot the Islanders, 45-27.
Ken Klee's goal neutralized Alexander Semak's goal that had given the Islanders the lead at 9:20 of the third period.
A season-low, decade-low crowd of 8,062 showed up for the game.
After falling behind 1-0 on a goal by Wendel Clark, Washington responded with two goals in the second period. First Konowalchuk scored on the power play 1:50 into the period, with assists from Dale Hunter and Mark Tinordi. It was Konowalchuk's ninth goal of the season and came on the heels of his first career hat trick, scored Sunday in Washington's 6-1 victory over Winnipeg.
Washington took the lead with 7:58 to play in the middle period, when Calle Johansson and Konowalchuk relayed the puck to Joe Juneau for a wrist shot in front of the Islanders' net. Juneau's goal was short-handed and was his second in two games, giving him three goals and 15 assists for the season.
The lead didn't last long, however. Patrick Flatley unloaded a slap shot from inside the blue line and was rewarded when Caps defenseman Klee inadvertently deflected it into the net at 5:36.
Up until game time, nothing went right for the Islanders yesterday. Their bus broke down on the way to their Annapolis hotel, delaying their arrival. And then they were forced to take a variety of cabs, many of whose drivers did not know exactly how to get to USAir Arena. That meant the team straggled in less than an hour before the game.
Perhaps that slowed their start, for the Capitals dominated the first period. Peter Bondra, Michal Pivonka, Pat Peake, Konowalchuk and Sylvain Cote all got off great shots for Washington.
The only trouble for the Capitals was that Islanders goalie Soderstrom was on his game and saved all 15 shots he saw.
And so, , after Washington had had numerous opportunities, including two power plays, it was the Islanders who took a 1-0 lead into intermission.
With just one minute to play, while the two sides were playing 4-on-4, Clark scored on a long-distance slap shot.
NOTES: Capitals left wing Kelly Miller was a late scratch yesterday with a groin strain, which brought to an end his consecutive game streak of 322, which was the third longest in the NHL behind Vancouver's Trevor Linden (405) and Montreal's Vincent Damphousse (353).