WASHINGTON -- This was as satisfying a loss as it could possibly be for the Islanders.
They earned a point after their 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals. Ryan Strome's rebound goal with 47.8 seconds to play in the third tied it at 2.
Afterward, the Islanders did not show any disappointment about not gaining a second point in the shootout, decided by Evgeny Kuznetsov's goal against Isles backup goaltender Chad Johnson for the only score of the skills competition.
"It's obviously better than losing in regulation," John Tavares said after his try from the boards tipped off Anders Lee's stick, Braden Holtby's pads and over to Strome, who buried it from a sharp angle to tie it. Eric Fehr had given the Capitals a 2-1 lead with 5:34 left.
The Isles' loss allowed the Caps to pull to within four points of the Metro Division-leading Isles, but there was still plenty to like about the visitors' moxie after they fell behind late.
"These are big games and it's going to be a fight right to the end," Tavares said, "and they're one of the better teams we've played all year. It's good we were able to fight back into it."
That's no coincidence that Tavares, who assisted on both Islander goals to give him 62 points this season, used the word "fight" twice. Yesterday's matinee was a grind from the first minute through the 65th, with neither team's best players given much room to operate.
Alex Ovechkin gave the Islanders some moments of panic, as he does to every team, but he was held off the scoresheet and got only three of his 11 shot attempts on goal, two of those in overtime. He was on the ice when Nicklas Backstrom circled the Isles net to feed Matt Niskanen for a one-timer past Johnson with 40.7 seconds left in the first to tie the score at 1, but Ovechkin did not do his usual damage to the Islanders.
"It's really more about how you play them when they get chances," said Johnson, who made 25 saves and was sharp again. His teammates blocked 27 Caps attempts. "We were communicating well down low. It's that time of year, they're tough games."
Travis Hamonic opened the scoring at 7:41 of the first, jumping into the rush to take a feed from Josh Bailey and beating Holtby glove side for Hamonic's first goal in 32 games.
The Caps surged a bit in the second period but the Islanders were a strong unit in their own zone, blocking the dangerous chances and bottling up the big Caps forwards.
The Islanders were the better team through the third and it seemed only a mistake or a lucky play would give one team a lead. The Caps got that when Johnny Boychuk skated onto a slap shot that Holtby denied, then Boychuk collided with teammate Nikolay Kulemin as the Caps gained control.
On the three-on-two, Eric Fehr beat Johnson with a wrist shot, a hang-your-head type of unlucky play. The Isles did no such thing, turning their game up a level. Strome made like Wayne Gretzky on the next shift, making plays from behind the Caps net as the Isles stormed for the tie.
They thought they had the tie just outside of a minute to go, when Tavares pounced on a rebound with Holtby diving back. Tavares rammed it off the post and it stayed out during a scrum.
"You think maybe it's going to be one of those nights," Jack Capuano said. "But we found a way."
Frans Nielsen lost the handle on his signature backhand in the shootout and Holtby stopped Tavares, then Strome, for the extra point. But none of the Isles were sulking after the loss, knowing they earned an important point.
"At this point, where we are in the standings, it's a matter of getting all the points you can," Hamonic said. "We'll take it."