NEW YORK — Justin Williams sensed one of his linemates was getting tired late in the 3-on-3 overtime, so he waited for a line change. With rested teammates Williams went up the ice and got the winning goal.
On the play, defenceman John Carlson sent the puck across to Williams, who sent a one-timer from beyond the top of the left faceoff circle past Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss for his 19th of the season.
“I was behind the net and I knew (Matt Niskanen) was tired so I asked him if he wanted to go change. He said ‘Yeah,’ so I let him go change, get some fresh guys out there,” Williams said. “Certainly didn’t get all of the one-timer but enough to get in.”
Alex Ovechkin scored twice in a 1:27 span early in the second period and Braden Holtby stopped 20 shots for Washington to get his league-leading 36th win of the season. The Capitals beat the Islanders for the third time in three meetings this season.
Washington, which leads the NHL with 88 points, was 7-2-1 in its last 10 coming in but won for the fifth time in six games and improved to 15-3-2 against Metropolitan Division teams.
“We had seen our game slip lately and it’s not all the way back to where it needs to be but we did a lot of good things tonight,” Williams said. “We need to keep having the puck a lot more and lessening the opportunities the other team has and I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
John Tavares and Frans Nielsen scored and Greiss had 32 saves for the Islanders, who had won four of their previous five. New York snapped a four-game home winning streak and will play 12 of its next 14 on the road.
Nielsen tied it with 1:44 left as Travis Hamonic sent the puck toward the goal from the blue line and after it settled about a foot from the goal line, Nielsen tucked it inside the right post for his 16th.
“At least we got a point out of it tonight so we could take something away from this game because we definitely didn’t play our best game,” Nielsen said.
With the Capitals trailing 1-0 after one period, Ovechkin tied it 1:25 into the second as he got a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov at the right side of the net and fired it past Greiss. Kuznetsov got his 42nd assist and 58th point — both team highs — on the play.
Ovechkin gave Washington the lead on the power play at 2:52 with his league-leading 37th goal of the season. Nicklas Backstrom took a pass from T.J. Oshie as he crossed the blue line and dropped the puck back to the left for Ovechkin, who fired it past Greiss.
Ovechkin has 30 goals in 40 career games against the Islanders and helped the Capitals improve to 32-0-1 when leading after two periods.
With Ryan Strome off for elbowing, Greiss was whistled for delay of game near the midpoint of the second period to give Washington a 5-on-3 advantage for 58 seconds. However, Greiss stopped both Capitals shots in that stretch.
“There were a lot of surges throughout that game and the penalty kill did a good job,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “I thought they really gained momentum off their power plays. They didn’t score on a few of them but you could really see the momentum they were building. They had quite a few shots there and our goalie came up big for us when he needed to.”
Washington outshot New York 14-4 in the second period and 35-22 for the game.
“I thought Greiss made some good saves at key times and we just never pulled away,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “They hung around. They got a late goal there, but really we didn’t give up too much.”
Tavares got New York on the scoreboard with 4:19 left in the first period. He took a pass from Nick Leddy, skated through the right circle and got past defenceman Nate Schmidt, went backhand to forehand and wristed the puck past Holtby for his team-leading 22nd goal. It was the Islanders captain’s seventh straight game with at least a point and gave him seven goals and nine assists in his last 11 games.
NOTES: Washington snapped a 20-game streak of scoring in the third period. The Capitals have outscored opponents 72-46 in third periods. … C Mike Richards has no points in 13 games since joining the Capitals as a free agent last month. … Oshie appeared in his 499th career game. … Greiss played in his career-high 26th game. His previous high was 25 with Phoenix in 2013-14. … Leddy’s assist on Tavares’ goal in the first period gave him a point in four straight games. He has nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his last nine games.