UNIONDALE, N.Y., FEB. 27 -- Clint Malarchuk recorded his third shutout in four games tonight, turning aside 28 shots as the Washington Capitals set back the New York Islanders, 3-0.

Rod Langway, Bengt Gustafsson and Michal Pivonka scored for Washington, which won for the seventh time in its last eight games in completing a 4-1 road trip.

Langway was standing just outside the New York crease when he converted Mike Gartner's pass for the game winner at 3:27 of the first period and he said later, "I was cautious in the first period, because if they got ahead it would be easy to pat ourselves on the back for a 3-2 road trip and let this one go."

The way Malarchuk was playing, there was no further cause for concern. Like his teammates, he quickly regained the form that had carried him to shutouts in Winnipeg and Minnesota last weekend.

Malarchuk yielded four goals in 33 minutes of a 4-3 defeat in Los Angeles Wednesday and was yanked. He was not scheduled to start here, but returned to the net after Pete Peeters was struck in the left foot during Friday's practice.

"After the back-to-back shutouts, I went into L.A. riding high and I got shot down," Malarchuk said. "When I was pulled, my confidence dropped lower, but maybe that was good. My confidence wasn't as high tonight, but I was really prepared.

"I was more nervous than usual. I wanted to get off to a good start and get in the same groove as Winnipeg and Minnesota. Tonight, I got some long shots in the first period, which was good. I got the feel of the puck right away and it got me going."

The Islanders, who were missing seven injured regulars, had run off a seven-game unbeaten streak since they last were defeated, 6-2, by Washington at Capital Centre on Feb. 12. They declined to use the incredible series of mishaps as an excuse.

"We had worse things happen in the playoffs last year and we prevailed," said goalie Kelly Hrudey, Malarchuk's boyhood rival who stopped 27 shots himself and had no chance on any of Washington's goals. "At this time of year, we should play right through those things.

"But they {the Capitals} started out really well tonight. They were all over us in the first period."

The Capitals moved within one point of the second-place Islanders and, pending Philadelphia's late result in Los Angeles, were only three behind the Patrick Division leaders. With a victory, New York could have moved into a first-place tie and opened some space over Washington.

"We were just looking at Philly and we could have gotten ourselves in position for a run at first," said New York defenseman Denis Potvin. "Now, Washington's climbing up our back.

"Our guys were just standing around tonight. Our power play was nothing. You can't pass to a guy who's just standing there. But we've been playing well and tonight is one of those games we have to shelve and forget about."

Malarchuk did not get off to an auspicious start. He flipped the puck over the glass and was penalized for delay after 56 seconds. The Islanders, futile on six power plays, managed only one shot and the Capitals came storming back.

Langway pinched into the left wing circle and fed Mike Ridley in the slot, but Hrudey blocked Ridley's drive and Gartner's rebound. Langway broke for the net and converted Gartner's pass.

"The puck was laying in the corner, so I grabbed it and then I saw Ridder in front and gave it to him," Langway said. "I thought Ridder had scored, but when he didn't, I went in, pushed a guy away and got lucky when Garts made a great pass."

Scott Stevens gave the Capitals another lift when he sent puck carrier Bryan Trottier flying through the air with a devastating check. Then Washington's power play got a chance after New York's Brad Dalgarno was called for a silly hold on Greg Adams.

Gustafsson led a charge up the ice, then broke for the net after passing off to Dave Christian. A quick relay from Christian to Dale Hunter to Stevens at the left point was followed by Gustafsson's deflection of Stevens' shot for a 2-0 lead.

Malarchuk fought off a furious New York flurry early in the second period, before Gustafsson lifted the puck from New York rookie Jeff Finley to set up the third goal. Gustafsson tapped it to Christian, who found Pivonka open on the left wing for the clincher.

The Islanders gained some brief spark in the third period when Gerald Diduck dumped Pivonka into the penalty box. The crowd of 15,723, which had been booing the home club, began to chant, "Let's go, Islanders" and Trottier led a brief offensive surge.

Malarchuk turned it back and it was time to celebrate and think about going home for the first time in 12 days.

As time ran down, Peeters stood on crutches in the runway leading to the Washington dressing room, watching his partner tie the club record of four shutouts in a season.

"This has been an unbelievable scenario," said Coach Bryan Murray. "Pete keeps getting hurt and Clint keeps coming in and playing well. Clint was sharp and made a couple of big stops and we played with great confidence."