Sorokin stellar again, Islanders beat Capitals in shootout
By STEPHEN WHYNO
WASHINGTON (AP) Trade deadline pickup Pierre Engvall scored, Ilya Sorokin made 28 saves and the New York Islanders took another stride toward returning to the playoffs by beating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night.
With their second consecutive win - and first in six shootouts this season - the Islanders strengthened their hold on the first Eastern Conference wild card. They're now five points up on Pittsburgh and six ahead of Florida with five games left to play in the regular season.
"We're trying to make the playoffs," said Bo Horvat, who along with Kyle Palmieri scored in the shootout. "We want to play the right way and do all the right things and play well at both ends of the rink, and we've been doing that as of late. That's what you're going to need in the playoffs come that time. Our goal is to get there and continue to keep playing the way we're playing."
Sorokin again was crucial for New York, stopping two of three shooters in the shootout after some key saves before that. The All-Star goaltender improved to 8-1-1 in his last 10 games, a stretch in which he has stopped 263 of 286 shots.
"I feel good," Sorokin said, deflecting any talk about the prospect of making the playoffs. "I don't think about this. Just one game. No overthinking, just one day and control what you can control. That's it."
Engvall scored New York's only goal in regulation, his second in two games and sixth since being acquired in a trade from Toronto. It was his fourth goal on four career shots against Darcy Kuemper.
The Islanders have gone 11-4-2 since top center and second-leading scorer Mathew Barzal went down with a lower-body injury.
There's nothing new to report on Barzal's status, according to Lane Lambert, who was back in his old home arena for the first time as an NHL head coach. Lambert was an assistant on Barry Trotz's staff when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and succeeded him as coach of the Islanders but ascribed no special meaning to this return.
"We had some good memories, Barry and I, here and the first time back here four years ago was maybe it was like a little bit of this or that," Lambert said earlier in the day. "But we've been back here so many times that this is no different."
The Islanders return April 10, by which time they could be in position to clinch a playoff berth - their fourth in five years. New York reached the East final in 2020 and 2021 before a combination of a lengthy opening road trip and a series of injuries and virus absences derailed last season.
Similar trials and tribulations have affected Washington this season, likely ending the organization's postseason streak at eight. Playing without Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and John Carlson for long stretches, the Capitals were sellers at the trade deadline after a rough stretch and have lost five of six to fall out of the race.
"Every time you're losing, you're not happy with the game and you can't really be happy," Backstrom said. "But we're just gonna keep working, and that's all we can do."
Conor Sheary scored Washington's only goal, and Kuemper made 25 saves in falling to 21-22-6 in his first season with his new team after backstopping Colorado to the Cup last year.
Islanders: Visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Capitals: At Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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Updated March 30, 2023