WASHINGTON -- The New York Islanders may not be in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, but they could have an impact on who joins them as playoff no-shows.
New York defenseman Andrew MacDonald provided Tuesday's only offense when he scored 2:16 into the third period, and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 22 shots for his 57th career shutout as the Islanders blanked the Washington Capitals 1-0 at the Verizon Center.
"He played well for us," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "He made some big saves on their power play, but I thought with all the power plays they had (0-for-6) we still held them under 24 shots. I thought we defended real well.
"We've been playing hard and haven't been getting results, but (we) deserved it."
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Islanders (22-28-8).
The Capitals (25-23-9) remain three points out of a playoff spot. It was the fourth time this season Washington was shut out, all of them coming on home ice.
"Every point right now is huge," Capitals center Eric Fehr said. "It doesn't matter if you are playing the Islanders or you are playing Boston. You have to play the same way all the time."
The Capitals had a chance to tie the game with 3:05 remaining in the third period when right winger Alex Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. The Capitals failed on the man advantage for the sixth time in the game thanks to a big save by Nabokov on defenseman John Carlson.
Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal scorer with 39 goals, finished with just three shots.
"I thought the penalty killers did a good job against a good power play," Nabokov said. "Everybody is pitching in and paying attention to details."
After two periods of scoreless hockey, the Islanders broke through early in the third period. MacDonald rifled a slap shot from the right point through a pair of Capitals and past goaltender Michal Neuvirth for his fourth goal of the season.
The Islanders had a chance to make it 2-0 when winger Michael Grabner was awarded a penalty shot at the 8:26 mark, but Neuvirth made a right pad save to keep the Capitals within one goal.
Earlier in the period, Neuvirth robbed center Frans Nielsen with a glove save.
"Neuvy played well the whole game," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of his goalie, who made 27 saves. "We didn't test them much late."
Despite more than 10 minutes of power-play time in the first two periods, neither team managed much offense, sending the game into the third period in a scoreless tie.
The Capitals' best chance to beat Nabokov came in the first period when Fehr hit the right post on a rebound attempt.
In the second period, two Islanders rang shots off the post. First it was winger Cal Clutterbuck hitting the right iron on a short-handed, two-on-one rush. Then it was right winger Kyle Okposo redirecting a shot off the outside of the right post with Neuvirth out of position.
NOTES: John Carlson played in his 271st consecutive game, matching Washington assistant coach Calle Johansson for the longest streak by a Capitals defenseman. ... Washington C Nicklas Backstrom entered the game with 28 points in his last 28 games and ranked first in the NHL with 31 power-play points, but he did not get on the score sheet Tuesday. ... The Islanders are 19-7-3 when scoring three or more goals and 3-21-5 when scoring two or fewer. ... The Capitals are 22-4-4 when scoring three or more and 3-19-5 when scoring two or fewer. ... The Capitals continue their four-game homestand Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets and conclude their pre-Olympic schedule Saturday night at home against the New Jersey Devils. The Islanders return home to face the Calgary Flames on Thursday and the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.