UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Hot, swelteringly hot. That's how the Washington Capitals continue to play.
Every night since the All-Star break, the Capitals have found a way to win. One night it's the defense. The next it's the goalkeeping. On another, it's the Eastern European line of Dimitri Khristich, Peter Bondra and Michal Pivonka. Sunday, it was the inspiring play of center Mike Ridley.
Last night, before 9,304 at the Nassau Coliseum, it was veteran ** center Dale Hunter leading the offense early with a goal and an assist and Bob Carpenter giving them breathing room in the third. In between Don Beaupre held down the fort as the Islanders, at times, came at the veteran goaltender in waves.
The Capitals rolled to an early 3-0 lead and held on for their seventh straight victory, 4-2.
"Beaupre kept us in this one," said Hunter. "And then Bobby had that big goal. It just broke their back. They'd just scored and then he pops one in and it blows their bubble."
Washington, now 32-22-6, is 10 games over .500 for the first time this season and has tied its longest winning streak of the season.
"I think Washington is a very sound hockey club," said Islanders coach Al Arbour. "Everything they're doing now seems to be going their way."
But the Capitals sounded some self-directed warnings after the game.
"It's too tight to get cocky," said Hunter. "You go into a tailspin for five games and you're out of the playoffs. That's how tight it is."
Washington is in second place for the 55th straight day and has a seven-point lead over the third-place New York Rangers. The Capitals play next in Boston Saturday.
As Arbour said, everything is going Washington's way right now. The Islanders were rallying in the third, and Carpenter selected the perfect time to pick up a rebound off a shot by Kelly Miller and put it in the Islanders' net.
There were three minutes left and New York had just closed to within 3-2. As Hunter said, it burst the Islanders' bubble and stopped their rally cold. It was Carpenter's seventh goal of the season, and came 24 seconds after Tom Kurvers had closed the margin to one goal.
And then there was Beaupre, who had 23 saves, many of them in succession. Sunday he set the Capitals' all-time victory mark with 95 wins. Last night, he played even better.
"Donnie was the difference," said Washington captain Kevin Hatcher. "The Islanders are explosive and they thrive on it. They've got a pretty good line in [Pierre] Turgeon, [Steve] Thomas and [Derek] King, and we gave them a lot of chances that Donnie saved."
The Islanders had planned to attack the Capitals early. Arbour said before the game, "We've got to get on them before they get going."
But Washington, referred to as the "Blasting Caps" in the local papers here, blasted its way to a 3-0 lead by the end of the second period.
Carpenter set up the first goal, when he carried the puck into the Islanders' zone and convinced defenseman Jeff Norton that he was going to keep it.
But when Carpenter skated past Kelly Miller, he left the puck in front of him just inside the blue line.
As Carpenter skated on, taking Norton with him, Miller unloaded a 50-footer. The puck bounced off defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and then streaked past Islanders goalie Glenn Healy, sight unseen.
In the second period, Hunter nudged the puck between the goal post and Healy's body for a 2-0 lead with 9:56 gone in the period.
"All I had to do was shovel it in," said Hunter, smiling. "Hatch [Kevin Hatcher] gave it to me, right there."
After New York's Brian Mullen had a point-blank shot stopped by Beaupre, the Capitals went on the attack again. Hunter took a pass from Pat Elynuik, skated in as if about to shoot, changed his mind and circled -- "because I didn't have much of an angle" -- and passed to Sylvain Cote, who lifted a shot past a screened Healy for a 3-0 lead with 2:21 left.