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Caps vault into first with SO victory over Islanders

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Evgeny Kuznetsov was the shootout hero while goaltender Ilya Samsonov recorded the shutout as the visiting Washington Capitals claimed a 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday.

The Capitals (30-13-4, 64 points) took sole possession of first place in the East Division standings.

Kuznetsov won the game in the third round of the shootout when he went wide to his weak side, cut to the middle and then snapped a high shot home for the winner.

Nicklas Backstrom also scored in the shootout for Washington, while Anthony Beauvillier was the lone Islanders skater to find the mark in the shootout.

Samsonov, who was especially sharp in the first period with 15 saves, finished with 26 saves through overtime and stopped two of three Islanders in the shootout for his second shutout this season and the third of his career.

He also made a point-blank left pad stop on Kyle Palmieri during a New York power play midway through the third period and then on Jordan Eberle late in overtime, during which the hosts held possession of the puck almost the whole five minutes.

The Capitals have won four of the six meetings with the Islanders this season. They have a one-point edge on the Islanders (29-13-5, 63 points) and Pittsburgh Penguins (30-14-3, 63 points). The Boston Bruins (27-12-6, 60 points) are fourth in the ultra-tight division race.

Semyon Varlamov took the loss but officially recorded his fifth shutout of the season and the 32nd of his career by making 28 saves through overtime. Varlamov’s busiest period was the second, in which he stopped 14 shots, though he was called upon to make a few clutch saves late in regulation, including a golden chance for T.J. Oshie in the final two minutes.

The clubs will meet again Saturday night on Long Island before facing each other for the last time in the regular season Tuesday in Washington.

The game also saw Michael Raffl, acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers at the trade deadline, make his debut for the Capitals. Raffl skated mainly on a line with Conor Sheary and Lars Eller.

The news wasn’t as positive for Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz, who sustained a lower-body injury in the previous game and didn’t make the trip to New York. Zdeno Chara stepped back into the Washington lineup.

–Field Level Media

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