NEW YORK — — Tom Wilson scored early, Alex Ovechkin added an empty-netter late and Vitek Vanecek made 23 saves to lead the Washington Capitals to a 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Vanecek earned his seventh win of the season and third career shutout as the Capitals went on a four-game slip (0-2-2).
“Guys were buzzing today,” Vanecek said. “They didn’t make mistakes. They helped me a lot with blocked shots.”
Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves in just his fifth start for the Islanders since allowing four goals against the New York Rangers in late November.
Wilson opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the slot at 4:35 of the first period. The Islanders lost track of Wilson when the Capitals crossed the blue line and a spinning Aliaksei Protas made a pass to Wilson, who was all alone between the circles. Washington outscored the Islanders 16-7 in the first 20 minutes.
“The first goal really helps settle you into an early game,” Wilson said. “It helps us play the game we want to play. If you chase the game, you are moving away from some of your habits and what it takes to win.
The Islanders’ best chance came midway through the first period when defenseman Noah Dobson fired a wrist shot at the post after making a clever move to create space in the slot.
“We have to find a way to get the puck to the net, especially late,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “We have to find a way to push and get something fat.”
Vanecek saved the shutout when he denied Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom a jamming opportunity with 2:30 remaining in the third period. The 26-year-old goaltender is in his second season with Washington after the organization selected him in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft. The Czech keeper has 28 career wins in 55 appearances for the Capitals.
The Islanders were 0-3 on the power play and fell to 5-10-2 when they failed to capitalize on the power play.
“I often think that specialty teams are a reflection of your five-on-five game,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our guys were connected, that means the penalty takers were connected. They won battles, ran their routes, caught clears, blocked shots and did all the little things that can make a penalty succeed.”
Ovechkin sealed the win with his 755th career goal in the dying seconds.
Lane Lambert led the Islanders behind the bench while coach Barry Trotz remains in COVID-19 protocol.
“We knew the magnitude of the game and we didn’t get the result,” Lambert said.
Capitals forward Conor Sheary was placed on COVID-19 protocol before the game. … The Capitals have not had two consecutive regulation-time losses in 53 straight games, a streak that began on April 9, 2021. … Washington was 17-6-4 when it scored the first goal. … The Capitals have seen 11 rookies appear in a game this season, the most by Washington since the 2013-14 season.
The Islanders host Philadelphia on Monday night.
The Capitals host Vancouver on Sunday.