WASHINGTON -- The way things are going in the Eastern Conference, the Southeast Division winner might be the only team from that 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 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 inched closer to overtaking the Winnipeg Jets for the Southeast Division lead.
Holtby stopped Frans Nielsen, Brad Boyes and John Tavares in the shootout to improve his career mark to 4-2 in shootouts.
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 two goals during the first 65 minutes of play.
The Capitals (18-17-2, 38 points) improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight games and moved into a virtual tie with the Jets atop the Southeast. The Jets had lost seven of their previous 10 games heading into Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, which they trailed 3-1 heading into the third period.
The win also moved the Capitals over the .500 mark for the first time all season. They are now 16-9-1 after starting the season 2-8-1 under first-year coach Adam Oates.
The Islanders (18-17-3, 39 points) missed a chance to move past the idle Rangers in their bid for the eighth and final playoff spot. They had won five of six before falling to the Caps.
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 Islanders goalie 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.
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 has stopped all 30 shots before Okposo's game-tying goal.
NOTES: Newly acquired left wing Martin Erat made his Capitals debut on a third line with center Mathieu Perreault and right wing Joel Wards, who played with Erat for three seasons in Nashville. The game featured two of the NHL's top five goal scorers. New York's John Tavares entered the game ranked second in the league with 23 goals, two behind Tampa's Steven Stamkos. Washington's Alex 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 game-winner in each of the first two meetings between the Capitals and Islanders. ... Capitals right wing 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 all-time wins list for head coaches. He recently passed Peter Laviolette with his 78th win, three behind Terry Simpson. Al Arbour is the Isles' all-time winningest coach with 740. Both teams return to action on Saturday. Washington visits the Florida Panthers, while the Isles return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.