Islanders vs. Capitals: Tavares' late tally keeps Isles in thick of Eastern race

USA TODAY Sports

John Tavares took advantage of a Capitals mistake late in the game Tuesday to score the game-winner and keep the Islanders in good playoff position.

WASHINGTON -- In a playoff chase where points are becoming critical, the Islanders were able to cash in on a bad Capitals turnover late in the third period of a tie game at Verizon Center, with John Tavares netting the game-winner with just 5:18 left to play.

With the puck in Washington's end, Capitals defenseman Mike Green fumbled the puck next to his cage, and Islanders forward Matt Moulson took advantage, winning the biscuit from Green and sending it out front to Tavares, who beat Caps netminder Braden Holtby for the eventual game winner.

Despite New York blowing a 2-0 lead to the Caps, the result was the kind of play that left one team elated while another was deflated.

"We finally found our game," Tavares told reporters afterwards. "Matt made a great play to me, and [I was] just lucky enough to put it in."

"I thought [the Tavares] line struggled a little bit in the first two periods," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "I met with them after the second, I knew that they were going to find a way. We knew they were going to find a way.

"When you need a big goal, it's that line that usually comes up for us. It was good to see those guys respond in the third."

With the win, the Islanders remained just two points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, and despite the team's struggles at Nassau Coliseum -- just 6-11-2 in Nassau while 9-4-1 away from home -- Capuano felt that with the games dwindling, winning on the road was a must if the Isles want to qualify for their first playoff spot since 2007.

"For whatever reason, we play a little bit more relaxed [on the road] I don't know," he said. "You got win at home, obviously, to make the playoffs, our home record hasn't been good. Now, we're at a point where it's must-wins on the road for us. It was a good win for us, it's a tough place to come and play with the hockey team they have."

Asked if he felt some accomplishment reaching the ninth spot in the East, Tavares said the team is still looking higher.

"Not really," he said. "We don't have a playoff spot. When you have a playoff spot, you want to hold onto it and keep climbing and put teams behind you. Not much has been accomplished yet so we have to focus on the next game, we're obviously happy with the result but doesn't mean a lot if we can't get any momentum here."

But with a big win in Washington, the Islanders hope they can build after struggling badly in third periods this season.

"You hope so," Capuano said. "Again, we knew they were going to come and they did. The goalie made some big saves when he had to. I thought when we got back within our framework and our structure, I thought we did a good job.

"Hopefully our guys can build off [it]. We come into a tough building with a great team and a good crowd and we come out of here with two points."

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