The way Scott Stevens saw things, it's the playoffs, the opposing goalie "is fighting it a little" and Stevens' club needs a lift.

"It never hurts to shoot the puck in that situation," Stevens said with a smile because that's exactly what he did, and the result was the winning goal in the Washington Capitals' 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders last night.

Besides playing a solid defensive game, Stevens was involved in each of the three goals that put the Capitals ahead.

The game-winner came nine seconds after Bryan Trottier had tied the game at 2-2 with 1:34 left in the second period.

"The middle was open and the Islanders' Randy Boyd kept backing up," said Stevens. "He just stood back so I tried to put it beside him and it worked."

Smith, who said the puck deflected off Boyd's leg, was beaten to his glove side.

"When they scored, it put the pressure back on us," Stevens said. "[My] goal turned the tables back to us."

"We got a couple great shots," said Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. "One was from Stevens. It really would have given them a lift to be tied at the end of the period."

Stevens set up the Capitals' first goal by working a nice give-and-go with Gaetan Duchesne. Islanders goalie Bill Smith stopped Stevens' shot from the left wing but the rebound popped in the air. Duchesne waited for it to fall to a legal height and then batted it home.

The Capitals have been a defense-oriented team for years, so it wasn't surprising that Stevens and Duchesne played key roles.

Duchesne was not on the ice last night to score goals. Mike Bossy was why he was on the ice.

The Islanders right wing, who completed his eighth consecutive 50-goal season (61 this year), has been a terror against Washington and has done exceedingly well in Capital Centre. On his record are 53 goals in 52 regular-season games against Washington, with 10 goals in 15 playoff games. At Capital Centre, including all-star games, Bossy has 35 goals in 36 games.

But so far in this series he has none. Why? Duchesne.

"I'm just doing my job, trying to stop Bossy," Duchesne said, "but I got one for us."

During the regular season, the Capitals have just played their normal defense when facing Bossy. But in the playoffs, Duchesne has been a second shadow.

"I enjoy my role," Duchesne said. "I'm in the league because of my defensive skills. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't be here.

"Bryan asked me to play against Bossy most of the game and don't give him too many chances. In the playoffs, it's important that we shut him down."

Bossy has been Duchesne's assignment in previous playoffs, so he's gained from experience.

"This is the fourth year, so I've learned from the past," Duchesne said. "It gives me confidence. First, I get a lot of ice time and it gets your legs going and mind in the game."

Using his mind is the key in his improvement, according to Terry Murray, a Capitals assistant coach.

"In the past, he's tried to play Bossy too tightly," he said. "He was trying to cover him in a man-to-man too closely. Now, he's just playing between the net and Bossy. He's using the angles better, and leading him to the outside where he is less dangerous.

"Gaetan is maturing as a player -- he's using his head as well as his legs. It's one of the things that makes good hockey players in the NHL. It doesn't make sense to use all your energy running around doing useless things."