WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals keep finding different ways to win without top scorer Alex Ovechkin.
Chris Clark scored the deciding goal in the 11th round of the shootout, and backup goalie Semyon Varlamov came on in relief and carried the Washington Capitals to a 5-4 comeback victory over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
“Alex is the best player in the league, and he’s going to get the ice time that he deserves,” Clark said. “But if he goes down, there’s a lot of ice time to share. So I think the guys are definitely putting the effort in and showing that they can do it when you give them a chance.”
Ovechkin has missed four games due to an upper body strain, and Clark is one of the Capitals who have pitched in to fill the void. Clark has assists in a career-best four straight games and five of six. A total of 10 players have scored a goal during Ovechkin’s absence to help Washington win three straight.
Clark had never scored a shootout goal before this one. He was 0-for-2 in his career before getting called on in the 11th round with the shootout tied 1-1.
The captain then beat New York goalie Dwayne Roloson with a snap shot, and Varlamov sealed the win by denying Mark Streit’s shootout attempt.
Jeff Tambellini gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead in the first round of the shootout, and Alexander Semin tied it in the second. Varlamov made several big stops, saving the last seven New York shots.
Varlamov came on 6:54 into the game after starting goalie Jose Theodore allowed three goals on five shots. Semin scored just 8 seconds in before New York netted three goals in a row, but Varlamov came on and stopped 25 of 26 shots.
“(Theodore) looked a little rattled, and he looked a little down,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The last time he was pulled, Varly came in and shut the door, and I thought he could do it again.”
Semin scored two regulation goals for the Capitals plus the one in the shootout. He finished with 11 shots and created numerous scoring chances.
“He looked like he wanted to play,” Boudreau said. “When he wants to play, he could’ve had six. He’s scary good when he’s motivated.”
Semin’s early goal seemed to give Washington momentum, but the Islanders quickly rebounded. Matt Moulson brought New York into a 1-1 tie when he put in a rebound just 1:02 into the game.
Streit gave New York the lead at 5:10. Sean Bergenheim then beat Theodore with a backhander on a breakaway to make it 3-1 at 6:54.
The Capitals rallied as Tomas Fleischmann and Semin scored power-play goals to tie it 3-3. Eric Fehr then beat Roloson on a spinning backhand shot late in the second period for a 4-3 Capitals lead.
But the Islanders forced overtime when Trent Hunter scored a power-play goal with 2:08 left in regulation.
New York didn’t have a power play until the third period, but the Capitals committed three penalties – including two in the final five minutes. Hunter scored on a slap shot during the second power play.
“That third period was huge for us,” New York coach Scott Gordon said. “To be able to draw the penalties against a team that prides themselves on their third periods, it was good to see us come back and have that power play come up big.”
NOTES: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman came to the game and met with KHL President Alex Medvedev and others. … Semin’s early goal tied Gaetan Duchesne’s team record for fastest goal at the start of the game, set in 1987. … Fleischmann has six goals in his seven games this season. … Two of defenceman Streit’s three goals this season have come against Washington.