Capitals Justin Williams scores the game-winner in Brooklyn Thursday night.
Over the next 31 days, the Islanders will play just two games in Brooklyn and a dozen on the road.
With the circus and college basketball mostly taking over their new home arena through the middle of March, however, the Isles didn’t head into their long and winding road stretch with a victory.
They earned an important point on Frans Nielsen’s late goal — but still fell 3-2 in overtime to Alex Ovechkin and NHL-leading Washington on Thursday night before the seventh sellout crowd (15,795) of the season at Barclays Center.
“It’s a good point, Fransie came up big for us, but they’re a good team,” Isles coach Jack Capuano said of the Caps. “They’re all big (games), they’re all good teams… divisional games, we just have to focus on the task at hand.”
With Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov in the building, his fellow Russian luminary, Ovechkin, buried two goals in the second period and Justin Williams scored with 43.2 left in overtime as the cruising Caps (42-10-4) extended their lead over the third-place Isles (30-19-7) in the Metropolitan Division to 21 points.
Nielsen netted the game-tying goal with 1:44 remaining in regulation for the up-and-down Isles, who are 12-11-2 in 25 games since an 8-0-2 stretch in mid-December.
And Friday’s visit to the Devils will open a challenging stretch of 12 of the next 14 games on the road, with New Jersey just two points behind the Islanders in the standings.
Frans Nielsen ties the game for the Islanders, but they fall before hitting the road for a while.
“It seems like every team is in it, and there’s no excuse for not bringing it in division games like this,” Nielsen said. “Every night is big right now and we have to find a way to bring it every night from now on, if we want to be in the playoffs.”
The Isles finished 12-0-2 this season against Western Conference teams in Brooklyn, but they have dropped all three meetings this season to the Caps (0-2-1). Washington, of course, also took out Capuano’s team in seven games in the first round of the playoffs last April.
John Tavares staked Thomas Greiss to a 1-0 lead against Braden Holtby 15:41 into the first period, extending his point streak to seven games (5-6-11) with his team-best 22nd goal of the season.
But Ovechkin did typical Ovechkin things in the middle session, first tying it with an easy tap-in at the right post at 1:25. Barely 90 seconds later, No. 8 ripped home his second of the period – and 11th in 11 games – with a power-play wrister from the top of the left circle for a 2-1 Washington lead.
Greiss denied Ovechkin twice on a 5-on-3 power play later in the period and kept the Isles within one until Nielsen flipped in a hard-angle shot for the equalizer with less than two minutes to go in the third.
“You always want the two points,” Greiss said, “but especially this time of the year, you have to be happy with the one.”
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