WASHINGTON -- The way things are going in the Eastern Conference, the Southeast Division winner might be the only team from the division to get into the playoffs.
That's why the Washington Capitals had one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard during their 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night at the Verizon Center.
Alex Ovechkin scored the only goal of the shootout and Braden Holtby stopped 35 of 36 shots in regulation and all three in the shootout as the Capitals moved into the Southeast Division lead.
The Capitals (18-17-2) and Winnipeg Jets (18-18-2) are tied with 38 points, but Washington, which has gone 6-1-1 in its last eight games, has 11 games to play and the Jets, who have lost eight of 11, have 10 left.
"The guys will enjoy it for a little bit," first-year Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "But we've got a lot of hockey left. It think it's more important that we focus on the weekend because it obviously could drop just as fast."
Holtby stopped Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes and John Tavares in the shootout to improve his career mark to 4-2 in shootouts.
"Holts was a stud," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. " ... He stole us that one."
Evgeni Nabokov stopped Matt Hendricks and Mike Ribeiro but fell to 27-23 in career shootouts.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green and Islanders forward Kyle Okposo scored the only goals during the first 65 minutes of play.
The win moved the Capitals above .500 for the first time all season. They are 16-9-1 after starting the season 2-8-1 under Oates.
"It's been a tough season, always looking up (in the standings)," Holtby said. "We all knew where we should be and that's at the top. We knew if we kept focusing on the way we play, we'd be where we wanted to be at the end of the year."
Despite the loss, the Islanders (18-16-4, 39 points) moved past the Devils and the idle Rangers into seventh place in the airtight conference standings. They had won five of six before falling to the Caps.
"At least we got a point," Isles defenseman Mark Streit said. "We played a pretty good game. We got a lot of shots on net, but we just couldn't score more goals. ... It was a typical 'down the stretch' game."
Green gave the Capitals their only goal during regulation with 13 seconds remaining in the first period when Marcus Johnasson poked the puck to him at the top of the right circle. The 27-year-old defenseman blasted a slap shot through Nabokov, who appeared to lose his balance after Green released the shot.
It was Green's fifth goal in his last four games and marked his first four-game goal streak since early in the 2010-11 season.
"I love the way he's moving up in the play," Oates said. "He's not trying to do too much with it. He's been involved at the correct times and not trying to gamble."
The Islanders sent the game into overtime when Kyle Okposo scored with 4:59 remaining in the third period. Okposo took a cross-ice feed from Frans Nielsen and blasted a shot past Holtby, foiling his bid for his fifth shutout of the season.
Holtby had stopped all 30 shots before Okposo's tying goal.
NOTES: Newly acquired left winger Martin Erat made his Capitals debut on a third line with center Mathieu Perreault and right winger Joel Wards, who played with Erat for three seasons in Nashville. The game featured two of the NHL's top five goal scorers. Tavares entered the game ranked second in the league with 23 goals, two behind Tampa's Steven Stamkos. Ovechkin entered the game in a three-way tie for third place with Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz and Los Angeles' Jeff Carter, all with 20 goals. Tavares scored the winner in each of the first two meetings between the Capitals and Islanders. ... Capitals right winger Eric Fehr returned to the lineup after missing four games with an upper-body injury. He replaced Jason Chimera, who was a healthy scratch after scoring just one goal in 36 games. With Fehr's return, defenseman Tom Poti is the only player on the Capitals' injured list. ... Islanders center Marty Reasoner played in his 799th NHL game. ... Islanders coach Jack Capuano is now third on the club's career wins list. He recently passed Peter Laviolette with his 78th win, three behind Terry Simpson. Al Arbour is the Isles' winningest coach with 740. ... Both teams return to action on Saturday. Washington visits the Florida Panthers, and the Isles return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.