So give the advantage to the Islanders in the game between two teams scrapping on the edge of the playoff race. New York pushed its winning streak to a season-high five Wednesday night when Mike Comrie scored the only goal in the shootout in a 3-2 victory.
"We don't want to make a habit of coming back," Comrie said, "but it shows a lot of character."
Ovechkin hit the right post with his attempt, one of four times he hit the pipes on the evening. The NHL's leading goal-scorer (48 goals) was held without a point for a season-high third straight game, and the Capitals were left wondering what they have to do to beat an Islanders team that always seems to have Washington's number.
"They got a lucky goal ... They find a way to get those cheesy ones," said Washington goalie Olie Kolzig, who had the Islanders' second goal bank off his body from a near-impossible angle. "I give those guys credit. Every team has that team that they have a tough time playing against, and they work their butts off. For all the guys they are missing and them to come out with a win, I mean, hats off to them."
Satan and Josef Vasicek scored in regulation for the Islanders, who also rallied from 2-0 down to beat San Jose 3-2 at home on Monday. New York's winning streak, its longest since December 2003, has come on the heels of a seven-game skid that endangered the team's playoff chances.
"We're trying to make the playoffs, that's what's on our minds," said goalie Rick DiPietro, who made 28 saves behind an injury-depleted defense. "We dug ourselves a hole, and now we have to dig ourselves out."
Semin and Brooks Laich scored in the first period for the Capitals, who picked up a point to move into sole possession of second behind Carolina in the Southeast Division. Washington won 3-2 on a late goal after letting a 2-0 lead evaporate Saturday against Tampa Bay, but this time there were no third-period heroics.
"I think it's lack of a killer instinct," Laich said. "I don't think we really button down when we do have a lead. The old cliche is step on the throat. We sit back a little bit more. Sometimes we're trying to make too-fancy plays, too, which can result in turnovers. We just have to keep playing our same game, stay aggressive."
Washington outshot New York 30-19, including 3-0 in the five-minute overtime, but the Islanders still managed to win for the 11th time in the teams' last 14 meetings. New York played without defenseman Andy Sutton, who tore a hamstring Monday against San Jose and is out four to six weeks.
"We might come out flat," New York defenseman Freddy Meyer said, "but guys collectively pull each together and get into the game and battle right to final whistle."
New York D Bruno Gervais missed his fifth straight game with a strained oblique muscle. ... Washington D Tom Poti returned after missing two games with a lower body injury. D Jeff Schultz strained a ligament in his knee. He will be listed as day-to-day. ... Kolzig was generously awarded an assist on Laich's goal, the first for a Capitals goalie this season. ... The Capitals haven't allowed a power-play goal in six games. ... Kolzig has allowed only 12 goals in his last six games.