Capitals rally from three-goal deficit, clip Islanders in OT

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ELMONT, N.Y. — The Washington Capitals were out of sync and down a center early in the second period Monday night against the New York Islanders, digging themselves a three-goal hole and staring at a third consecutive loss. Then the visitors found another gear.

By the time Dmitry Orlov beat goalie Ilya Sorokin with 32.8 seconds remaining in overtime, the comeback was complete for a 4-3 victory at UBS Arena, giving the Capitals what could be a crucial win as the playoff picture begins to take shape in the second half of the season.

“There was no time to panic, but we got down 3-0 there, and you could kind of see our attitude that, ‘Enough is enough.’ And we started taking it to them physically, and we are able to turn the tide. And that is a huge comeback win that we can build off of,” said goaltender Darcy Kuemper, whose 27 saves included an overtime stunner on a breakaway from Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Orlov’s game-winner capped a textbook passing sequence in the three-on-three overtime session. Orlov played a gorgeous give-and-go with T.J. Oshie, crossing the blue line and sending the puck to his teammate while he streaked through the left circle, where he received the puck back from right on his stick, flipped it to his forehand and beat Sorokin to earn Washington two points. It was his second overtime winner of the season.

“They were cheating, so I was a little alone. And when I get the puck, I just look at where is the net and then look [to see] where is Sonny [Milano],” Orlov said. “… Then I got me and goalie, and I tried to make a move, and it worked well. We win huge game. We need these two points and against division opponent.”

Oshie forced overtime by deflecting Erik Gustafsson’s pass from the point past Sorokin (31 saves).

Kuemper was strong in overtime, making two point-blank saves, including on the breakaway by Pageau to start the extra period.

The win snapped Washington’s two-game skid. The Islanders (23-18-4) fell four points behind the Capitals (24-16-6) for the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The win may have come at a cost. Less than five minutes into the game, the Capitals lost center Nic Dowd to a lower-body injury after he was crunched along the boards by Cal Clutterbuck. Dowd had to crawl to the bench before he gingerly walked down the tunnel with trainers.

Dowd took a twirl around the ice during a timeout midway through the opening frame but quickly headed back to the dressing room and did not return. He was later ruled out for the rest of the game.

With Dowd potentially out for Tuesday’s home date with the Minnesota Wild, the Capitals will probably bring Lars Eller, who was a healthy scratch Monday, back into the lineup.

The Capitals dug themselves an early deficit after goals from Sebastian Aho and Matt Martin. Aho scored 4:24 into the first period when his shot from the left point slipped past Kuemper. Martin doubled the lead at 13:19 with his deflection in front of the net. Hudson Fasching gave the Islanders a 3-0 lead with a bad-angle goal from the right circle that went off Kuemper’s pad at 3:51 of the second.

That was when Washington found its footing, getting on the board with 9:59 left in the second period when Garnet Hathaway poked a rebound through Sorokin’s pads while he was being knocked down to the ice.

Tom Wilson then added to Washington’s momentum when Nicklas Backstrom found him with a sublime feed from behind the net. It was Wilson’s first goal since returning from a torn ACL. Backstrom, like Wilson, was playing in his fourth game; he had hip resurfacing surgery.

“We started to feel more comfortable and just couldn’t get it to go [in the previous game]. And Nicky is such a great player, such a smart player, when he gets the puck I just try to stay put and get open and try to finish it. He put it right on my tape, and that is a big goal,” Wilson said.

With the returns of Wilson and Backstrom, Eller was the latest veteran forward to be a healthy scratch. Center Dylan Strome was scratched Saturday for Washington’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and winger Anthony Mantha had been scratched the previous two games.

Washington is now 2-2-0 since the returns of Wilson and Backstrom.

Here’s what else to know about the Capitals’ win:

Washington, fighting to stay in the game early in the third, had an injury scare with Kuemper. The netminder was shaken up after making a save on a shot by Fasching.

Capitals head athletic trainer Jason Serbus went out to talk to Kuemper in the crease, and after a lengthy discussion, Kuemper stayed in the net for the remainder of the game. Afterward, the goalie said he tweaked his neck.

Eller being a healthy scratch Monday did not come as much of a surprise in light of Washington’s latest lineup decisions. The center has struggled to produce during stretches this season and was even moved to wing while Washington’s coaching staff tried to find a spark in the line combinations.

Eller has failed to record a point in his past six games and last scored Dec. 27 against the New York Rangers. He has seven goals and eight assists in 44 games. Taking Eller out of the lineup removed a key part of the team’s penalty kill.

The Capitals dodged a bullet midway through the second period when Alex Ovechkin delivered a hard hit on Pageau along the boards. Ovechkin crunched the smaller Pageau against the glass, with Ovechkin’s shoulder making contact with Pageau’s upper body. It appeared Pageau’s head hit the glass, but officials reviewed the play and determined there was no infraction.

“One-hundred percent it turned the game,” Orlov said of Ovechkin’s hit. “We start to play more physical and get more offensive zone time, so it was a difference-maker for sure. We need to try to play like that every time.”

Pageau left the game and returned later in the period. Right after Ovechkin’s hit, Pageau tried to get up and skate but was wobbly and needed assistance standing up from teammate Noah Dobson.

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