Back when the Capitals were 2-8-1 and staring up at 14 other teams in the Eastern Conference standings, they had to wonder if this day would ever come.

Back then, Capitals coach Adam Oates talked about his team “leaking oil” and having a “fragile” psyche.

Not anymore. With their 2-1 shootout win over the New York Islanders Thursday night at VerizonCenter the Caps overtook the backsliding Winnipeg Jets atop the Southeast Division.

The Caps are now 16-9-1 since starting the season 2-8-1. Their current 6-1-1 run has coincided with the dual collapses of the Jets [3-8-0] and Carolina Hurricanes [1-9-1], resulting in the Caps catapulting from 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings to third.

Yep, third.

“It’s been a tough season, always looking up,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said after a spectacular 35-save performance, plus a perfect 3-for-3 in the shootout.

“We all knew where we should be, and that’s at the top. We just focused on what we had to do to be successful and if we did that we’d be where we wanted to be at the end of the year.”

To be clear, the Capitals still have 11 games to play before they can look back and pat themselves on the back for their remarkable turnaround.

But Thursday night’s game was another indication that the Capitals can adapt to almost any style of hockey played by their opponents.