Troy Brouwer glanced skyward as his arms fell to his side, his incredulity projecting around the rink.
Opportunities were plentiful for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, but they failed to take advantage of them. Brouwer's shot, early in the second period, went wide of the net – one of several squandered chances on a power play. Earlier, a two-man rush led to a save, a rebound and a shot that clanged off the pipe.
And while the New York Islanders also failed to capitalize on many of their own breaks, they needed only one to go their way. A slap shot from the right point by defenseman Andrew MacDonald early in the third period broke a scoreless tie, leading to the Islanders' 1-0 defeat of the Capitals at Verizon Center.
Evgeni Nabokov had 22 saves for his 57th career shutout, and fourth on the season, for the Islanders (22-28-8), who broke a five-game losing streak in one of the sloppiest, most sluggish performances by either team this season.
The Capitals (25-23-9), who have lost three of their last four games, were strung by the usual series of mistakes. Facing the worst penalty kill team in the league, they went 0-for-6 on the power play, including two opportunities which ended prematurely because of their own penalties.
Yet they managed to hold New York without a goal on the power play, stopping all five of the Islanders' advantages.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Eric Fehr, the third-line center on Tuesday. "We played great in the first [period], we had everybody playing, everybody was skating well and we shoot ourselves in the foot when we go in the box and when we get power play opportunities we're not scoring. This league is a special teams battle every night, and if you don't win it, you're not going to win games."
Michal Neuvirth had 27 saves in his third consecutive start, including a snazzy glove save 1:27 into the third period. Islanders center Franz Nielson let go of a wrister just to the right of the net, but Neuvirth, in place, was able to snag the puck.
The Capitals couldn't back their goalie. Only 49 seconds later, on their next trip down the ice, the Islanders dug the puck out of the right corner and sent it up to MacDonald stationed at the right point.
His slap shot, low and to the right of Capitals defenseman Tyson Strachan, rose up over Neuvirth's gloved left hand and into the top right corner of the net.
"There was lots of traffic in front and I lost it for one second," Neuvirth said. "Just couldn't pick it up. I don't even know if it hit something or not. Tough one."
The Islanders were awarded a penalty shot six minutes later when Capitals defenseman John Carlson was called for hooking on a breakaway by winger Michael Grabner. Neuvirth stopped Grabner's weak attempt – a flimsy wrister that deflected gently off his pads.
But the Capitals couldn't take advantage over the final 10 minutes of the third period. They squandered two additional power play opportunities and, after pulling Neuvirth with 48 seconds remaining, took only two more shots – one of which was blocked.
The Capitals, who defeated the Islanders in two previous meetings, have now been shut out four times this season. They also haven't won a Metropolitan Division game since the start of the year – a streak of seven consecutive losses – and have two more home games to play before beginning a two-week hiatus for the Olympics.
"We need to win our games at home," Fehr said. "We just went on a long road trip and we didn't win very many, so we've got to take advantage of this. Tonight really hurts us."
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