The Washington Times - November 11, 2009, 11:49PM

At the end of the day, the Caps have won three straight games (without the two-time defending MVP, no less) and are now alone atop the Eastern Conference standings.

This wasn’t the best effort, but it proved to be enough and it is hard to be too critical when there was plenty of good and there is that whole “no best player in the world” thing looming over everything.

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So here’s a look at the good:

* 10 players have scored goals since Ovechkin got hurt. 10 different goals scorers in four games — that’s some quality balance. The Caps have now scored 16 goals in four games without Ovechkin and 15 in the past three.

* Alexander Semin joined the party tonight after three less than stellar outings without his buddy. Yes, Semin had an awful, awful giveaway that led to a breakaway goal and Jose Theodore’s early shower … but he also scored two goals, had 11 shots on goal and scored in the shootout.

He was dynamite, for the most part, and the Caps will take a little bad with a lot of good.

* Semyon Varlamov made his second relief appearance of the year, and was great again out of the bullpen. He’s stopped 40 of 41 shots in games he didn’t start this year.

Then he was fantastic in the shootout. Eight times the Islanders had a guy on the ice who could end the game, and eight times he didn’t do it (six of those attempts were credited as saves to Varlamov). He even pulled out a new “save myself from carrying the puck into the net by grabbing hold of the crossbar” move that provided comic relief in amongst approximately 147 failed backhand attempts.

* Tomas Fleischmann has six goals in seven games. Can’t argue with that. The Caps had a nice top six before he came back, and now they’ve got a pretty sweet seven.

* The Fehr-Perreault-Clark line had another very nice game together. That the Caps are getting something from all four lines has made Bruce Boudreau’s job a lot easier … until he decides it is time to go down to three at the end of the game and he’s got to pick guys to not play instead of picking guys to play.

And the bad …

* The Caps came out flat despite Semin’s goal eight seconds in. Jose Theodore only stopped 40 percent of the shots he faced (that will get you pulled), but to be fair he didn’t have much help. He was screened on one and one was a breakaway. So let’s just say he deserves bad marks but also a chance to prove it was just a hiccup.

* The Caps went 40 minutes without a penalty … and then took three in the final 20 minutes. Two in the final six minutes will get you a blown lead and bonus hockey, which is what happened.

* The Fleischmann-Backstrom-Knuble trio was magic in the third period of the last game, but was on for two goals against in the first 7 minutes and weren’t great otherwise at even strength, though they did contribute a power-play goal.

Again, it wasn’t a great night but the Caps will take their two points and move on, knowing they are one day closer to getting Alex Ovechkin back while looking down at the other 14 teams in the East.