Staring elimination in the face, Capitals launch comeback to live another day

Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period, as Washington rallied from two goals down to beat the New York Islanders 3-2 Tuesday night and avoid a sweep in their first-round series.

Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for the Capitals and Braden Holtby stopped 24 shots. Washington won for the second time in seven post-season games, going 1-1-1 in round-robin play in the qualifying round to fall to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and then losing the first three games against the Islanders.

Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored in the first period to give New York a 2-0 lead. Semyon Varlamov finished with 26 saves. The Islanders, who won three of four against Florida in the qualifying round, lost for the second time in eight games this post-season.

Game 5 is Thursday.

WATCH | Ovechkin guides Capitals’ comeback against Isles:

The Capitals rallied from a 2-0 score on the back of Alex Ovechkin’s big game. Washington avoided elimination but the Islanders still lead the series 3-1. 1:03

Ovechkin’s second of the night 3:40 into the third period gave the Capitals their first lead. On a 2-on-1 with Tom Wilson, Ovechkin kept the puck and fired it past Varlamov for his fourth of the series. It was also the first goal Washington scored after the second period in this series.

New York pulled Varlamov for an extra skater with a little more than 1-½ minutes remaining, but couldn’t tie it.

Washington controlled the play in the second period, keeping the puck in the offensive zone for much of the time. The Capitals outshot the Islanders 15-7 in the period and scored twice to tie it.

Kuznetsov got the Capitals on the scoreboard during 4-on-4 play as he brought the puck up the right side, cut across the front of the net and put it past Varlamov at 3:35.

From Ovechkin’s office

With Washington on the power play, Ovechkin fired a slap shot from the top of the left circle off a pass from John Carlson to tie it at 2-2 1:54 later.

The Isles were swarming in the offensive zone from the start of the game and had an 8-1 advantage on shots on goal over the first nearly 10 minutes, scoring twice.

Pageau put the Islanders ahead 1-0 as he deflected Scott Mayfield’s point shot past Holtby at 3:50.

Barzal, who had the overtime winner in Game 3 on Sunday, made it 2-0 less than 5 1/2 minutes later. He brought the puck up the middle, passed to Nick Leddy to his left, and as he was streaking to the net, tipped the return pass from Leddy past Holtby.

Capitals coach Todd Reirden called a timeout immediately after the goal, and Washington picked up its intensity after.

The Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway hit on Barzal and after some pushing, dropped his gloves to challenge the Islanders’ star centre. With Barzal skating away, defenceman Mayfield quickly rushed in to challenge Hathaway. Mayfield and Hathaway were sent to the penalty box, with the Capitals forward getting a double-minor and putting the Islanders on their second power play with under 4 minutes remaining in the first.

Varlamov denied Lars Eller on a point-blank try from the right doorstep with 29 seconds left in the first to keep the Capitals off the scoreboard.

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