WASHINGTON (AP) Semyon Varlamov thought all day about facing former teammate Alex Ovechkin and trying to keep the player with the second-most goals in NHL history off the score sheet.

Varlamov did just that, stopping Ovechkin and the rest of the Washington Capitals on all 32 shots he faced to help the New York Islanders to a 3-0 victory Thursday night. Casually calling Ovechkin “the best player in the world” after turning aside three of his fellow Russian's shots, Varlamov picked up his second shutout of the season and 22nd of his career.

“He's already scored a few on me, and then every time he’s scoring he gets very pumped about it,” Varlamov said with a chuckle. “What can I say? Of course it’s nice to not give up the goals from him.”

Varlamov, a 2006 first-round pick of the Capitals, got plenty of support at the other end as Ryan Pulock, Simon Holmstrom and Brock Nelson scored three goals on the Islanders' first five shots. New York won despite being outshot 32-21.

“We weren’t great, for sure," said Pulock, whose goal on the first shot 22 seconds in sparked the Islanders' third win in four games. “Sometimes nights are going to be a little ugly, and you’ve got to find a way to get the job done.”

The Islanders welcomed back defenseman Scott Mayfield for his first game since the season opener after missing the past seven with a lower-body injury. But they went down a player on their blue line midway through the first period when Adam Pelech left holding his left side/back after a collision with Aliaksei Protas.

Pelech did not return. Coach Lane Lambert had no update on Pelech's status after the game.

Washington's Darcy Kuemper allowed goals on the first two shots he faced and made the vast majority of his 18 saves after the game got out of hand. The Capitals' winning streak ended at three as they lost their first game without longtime center Nicklas Backstrom, who took a leave of absence in the midst of an ongoing injury to his surgically repaired left hip.

“We’re close, and I think that’s a positive moving forward,” Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said. "We got some young guys in the lineup, they’re improving, the detail in their game’s getting better. Us older guys got to step up a little bit and get some of these goals when they’re not coming.”

Washington was shut out for the second time in nine games this season after a would-be goal by Oshie in the third period was wiped out by New York's successful coach's challenge for goalie interference.

“I'll take it,” Varlamov said. “It was kind of 50/50. I wasn’t sure. I watched the replay, and I felt like it was close. It could be goalie interference, could be not. I’m glad it was goalie interference.”

While it didn't play much into the result of the game, Oshie drew attention for wearing a neck guard. He's one of the first NHL players to add the extra protection since American Adam Johnson died after taking a skate blade to the neck in a game in England last weekend.

“I didn’t even notice it after one shift,” Oshie said. “For youth, I’d hope it shows that it’s really not a distraction from my game. I thought I played pretty decent tonight. Honestly, it was actually really comfortable.”

Oshie, who owns his own equipment company, also hopes it sends a signal to fellow pros that cut-proof gear is available.


Islanders: Return home to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.


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