Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders loses control of the puck as the Capitals’ Connor Carrick delivers a check during Tuesday’s 1-0 Islanders victory. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

One of the frequent refrains from Coach Adam Oates this season has been that the Capitals need to expect to play low-scoring games, that they need to learn to win those types of games.

Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders was a low-scoring game – another one that the Capitals failed to win. Asked if that game was the kind of contest a team needed to win if it wants to be a playoff team, Oates responded bluntly.

“No question,” Oates said. “Those are points you’ve got to get.”

Washington has not won a game in which it has scored fewer than three goals, that’s including the goal awarded in a shootout win. (s/t Japers’ Rink) That’s a season long negative trend that is costing the Capitals, who currently sit three points out of a playoff spot, an opportunity to move up.

So what does a low-scoring game like Tuesday’s tell them?

“What it proves is you can’t worry about goals. You’ve got to worry about your own end,” Oates said. “We’ve talked about you turn it over too many times, you give them a little bit of life, discipline with the penalties. You’ve got to be a defensive team first, and it’s amazing when you play good defense how you get chances.”

Michal Neuvirth finished with 27 saves, stopping all but a shot from Andrew MacDonald that found its way past him when he was screened by Tyson Strachan. He gave the Capitals a chance to win, but they couldn’t find the offense to generate even one goal just two days after they scored six against the Detroit Red Wings.

Washington went 0-for-6 on the power play and put only 22 shots on Evgeni Nabokov, with a combined 27 other attempts that didn’t reach the target. A power play at the beginning of the second period saw nearly every member of the top unit unable to convert.

“it’s something that we’ve been missing over the last few years,” Karl Alzner said of the inability to win low-scoring games. “We were like that a little bit when [Dale Hunter] was here. That’s because our style wasn’t a goal-scoring style, we just had to grind it out and that’s what happened but it’s pretty necessary. You go out West and play those teams you’re not going to get many goals, you’ve got to be able to find a way to win those ones. We’ve struggled with those over the years.”

More to come on this loss Wednesday in Five Thoughts.