Mike Green scored a pair of power play goals 1:23 apart in the third period to lead the Washington Capitals over the league-worst New York Islanders 5-3 before 18,277 at Verizon Center. It's just the eighth time in history the 30-goal mark has been reached by a defenseman.

Once again, the Capitals (47-23-7-101, first in Southeast, second in East) found themselves playing down to lower competition through much of the first half of this contest, trailing New York--the lowest scoring team in the NHL--by two goals until 5:37 of the second period, when Alex Ovechkin registered his league-leading 54th goal of the season off a nifty feed by veteran center Sergei Fedorov.

But a funny thing happened on the way to that goal. Jeff Schultz got into a fight. No, really. It was Schultz' first career fighting major, and it came after Green launched himself at unsuspecting Islander Andy Hibbert along the boards. Honestly, it was mildly surprising Green did not receive more than the two minute charging penalty he was assessed.

Regardless, Schultz was involved in the fracas following, and somehow got tied up with Tim Jackman, the Islanders rugged winger. While Schultz spent the better part of the fight avoiding getting hit, it was apparent that the shot of adrenaline woke the Caps out of their early-game stupor to take control of the contest.

John Erskine got the rough stuff started a few minutes earlier, as he tussled with Joel Rechicz as the undercard to the Schultz-Jackman main event.

Green's first goal was a one-timer from the wing off a feed from Alexander Semin, who seemed to be sleepwalking though much of the rest of the game, with multiple turnovers and lazy skating. That goal tied Green for first all-time among Capitals defensemen with 17, a record he would hold for his own just moments later.

The second goal was a long, soft wrist shot from the point that managed to escape Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald, though the goalie was distracted by Tomas Fleischman, who was in the general vicinity.

Green now has 30 goals on the season, the first time an NHL defenseman has hit that mark since the Caps' Kevin Hatcher in the 1993-94 season. Green is only the eighth defenseman in NHL history to eclipse the 30-goal mark.

Keith Aucoin scored his first goal as a Washington Capital and Nicklas Backstrom added an empty net goal to cap the scoring.

With the win, the Caps will clinch first place in the Southeast with any other win or Carolina loss. They also took a three point lead over New Jersey for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, as the Devils suffered their sixth straight defeat, losing to Pittsburgh 6-1 last night.

Washington faces the Buffalo Sabres Friday night at Verizon Center at 7:00 p.m.

14:04 Power Play - Kyle Okposo (18), Wrist Shot. Assist: Nielsen

37.0 Frans Nielsen (8), Tip-In. Assist: Tambellini, Okposo
05:37 Alex Ovechkin (54), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fedorov, Green
09:54 Keith Aucoin (1), Wrist Shot. Assist: Fehr

02:12 Richard Park (13), Backhand Shot, Unassisted.
10:55 Power Play - Mike Green (29), Wrist Shot. Assist: Semin, Backstrom
12:18 Power Play - Mike Green (30), Snap Shot, Unassisted.
19:04 Nicklas Backstrom (22), Empty Net, Unassisted

1. M. Green - WAS (Goals: 2, Assists: 1)
2. J. MacDonald - NYI (Saves: 38, Save Pct: .905)
3. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

Defenseman Brain Pothier was named as a finalist for the Masterson Trophy, awarded to the player who best personifies hard work and dedication to the game of hockey.

The Capitals are up to 47 wins, a total they haven't eclipsed since 1983-84, and have 101 points, a mark they haven't topped since getting 102 in 1999-00.

Ovechkin's 33rd home goal of the season broke the team mark he set in 2007-08.

Washington's Donald Brashear missed his ninth consecutive game with a knee injury, but the team expects the enforcer to be available for the playoffs.

Washington outshot New York 43-27, dominating play in the third period with a 22-9 shot advantage.

Photo (c) C. Nichols 2009. All rights reserved.