WASHINGTON — Barry Trotz would’ve been OK if Alex Ovechkin reached 700 goals as long as his Islanders won the game.
Thanks to Trotz’s trademark defensive structure, he didn’t have to worry about witnessing Ovechkin reach another milestone.
The Islanders beat the Washington Capitals 5-3 Monday night and kept Ovechkin stuck at 698 career goals. Trotz, the coach who won the Stanley Cup with Ovechkin in 2018 and turned the offensive star into a better all-around player, can now relax and watch history unfold from afar.
“He’s going to get 700,” Trotz said. “I know he’s going to get it and I’m a big believer he’s going to break (Wayne Gretzky’s goal-scoring) record. I wish him luck because we don’t play them anymore for the rest of the year. But it was a big win for us.”
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice and Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had three assists for New York, which jumped ahead 5-1 and held on, unlike a game last month against Washington in which it blew a three-goal lead and lost.
“Against these guys, you’ve got to keep your foot on the gas,” Bailey said. “They’ve got a heck of a team over there, a potent offense. We stuck with it there, let them get a couple, but I thought all in all it was good to get off to a fast start and kind of ride that through.”
All eyes were on Ovechkin’s attempt to become the eighth member of the NHL’s 700-goal club in the final game of a home stand. Instead, Washington fell in regulation for the second consecutive game and lost center Evgeny Kuznetsov to a scary-looking upper-body injury when he was crunched into the boards in the second period.
Coach Todd Reirden said Kuznetsov would be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Beauvillier scored the game’s first two goals, taking advantage of defensive miscues by the Capitals. Ensuing goals by Leo Komarov, Devon Toews and Jordan Eberle brought the hook for Washington rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who allowed five on 20 shots but shouldn’t be blamed for four of them.
This was the second consecutive game the Capitals pulled their starting goalie. Braden Holtby, who got yanked after allowing seven goals on 25 shots behind a similarly weak defensive performance Saturday against Philadelphia, this time stopped all 12 shots he faced in relief.
“The majority of what we’re giving up is off the rush, off plays that you negate by getting everyone working back,” Holtby said. “We just gotta get back to work in all areas and that’s basically it.”
Islanders counterpart Thomas Greiss made 25 saves to pick up his 16th victory of the season. Trotz improved to 4-0 in Washington as Islanders coach.
The Capitals lost for the fourth time in their past five home games.
“We are struggling, obviously, a little bit,” said T.J. Oshie, who scored a power-play goal. “But you know we can learn from a lot of these mistakes and grow and try to get better and improve and hopefully this makes us a little bit stronger.”
New York won for the fourth time in six games to strengthen its position in a crowded Eastern Conference playoff race. Not known for their offense, Islanders scored four-plus goals in all those victories.
“I thought the last few games, even the last month or two, we’ve done a good job creating scoring chances,” Beauvillier said. “Everyone’s pulling in the same direction, getting goals and it’s been huge for us.”