NEWARK, N.J. – The New Jersey Devils got their first break at home this season when the Washington Capitals scratched injured Alex Ovechkin from the lineup.
The next batch of good fortune came when Niclas Bergfors busted out with a pair of third-period power-play goals. Bergfors connected for goals 3:13 apart to break open a tie game and send the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Capitals on Wednesday night. It was only the second time this season New Jersey has won at home (2-4).
The Devils are 7-0 on the road.
“It’s different,” coach Jacques Lemaire said. “It’s good news and that is news.”
Just seconds after Alexander Semin’s hooking penalty gave the Devils their third advantage, Bergfors took a pass from Zach Parise in the right circle and whistled a rising shot over Semyon Varlamov’s glove with 8:40 left to make it 2-1.
Bergfors then deflected in Travis Zajac’s long shot with 4:50 remaining to give the Devils a two-goal edge. Bergfors’ game picked up Wednesday after Lemaire moved him to a line with veterans Zajac and Parise.
Bergfors’ second goal was originally credited to Parise, but Bergfors knew it was his.
“As soon as I touched it,” said Bergfors, who has five goals in 22 NHL games. “It was just a little tip. I’m glad we got the puck in the net. That was the best feeling.”
The Devils ended Washington’s streak of nine straight games with a point (6-0-3) that started with a shootout loss at New Jersey on Oct. 12. The Capitals also had earned points in eight consecutive games against the Devils (4-0-4), but they have dropped three in a row overall – following overtime losses to the New York Islanders and Columbus.
“Not only did some of them not stand out, but they cost us the game,” angry Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It’s a tough one to swallow.”
Ovechkin, the NHL MVP the past two seasons, sustained an upper-body strain on Sunday against Columbus and is considered week to week. Boudreau said Ovechkin told him he felt much better Wednesday.
The Devils were more than happy not to have to worry about him.
“The excitement level that he brings, the energy that he brings to the table – that wasn’t there,” Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. “When Ovechkin is touching the puck, it doesn’t matter what building he plays in, everybody is looking for him to do something spectacular. It’s tough to play.
“He is such a good player, so not having him, we’ll take it. We dodged one bullet.”
Ovechkin missed the fifth game of his five-season NHL career, his third absence caused by injury. Washington is 1-4 without him.
The last three penalties against Washington were taken in the offensive zone.
“Guys didn’t come to play,” Boudreau said. “Whether they are feeling sorry for themselves because Alex is not in, I don’t know. Same thing happened last year when we went into Buffalo and got smoked 5-0 when he wasn’t there.
“This isn’t a one man team, but those guys have got to understand that. People can get hurt at any moment.”
Brian Rolston also scored, and Brodeur made 26 saves for New Jersey.
Tyler Sloan scored in the first period, and Tomas Fleischmann brought the Capitals to 3-2 with 1:37 remaining. Varlamov stopped 30 shots.
“We need to take leadership and take ownership of the dumb things we’re doing,” Washington forward Mike Knuble said. “We have to stop it.”
Washington opened the scoring in the first when defenceman Sloan scored his first of the season and second in his NHL career.
Chris Clark kept the puck in the zone, and Mathieu Perreault – in his NHL debut – moved into the slot. He sent a pass left to Sloan, who also sees time at forward. Sloan showed precision when he squeezed a shot between Brodeur and the left post with 2:50 left in the period.
New Jersey got even 3:33 into the second with a little help from the Caps.
Jamie Langenbrunner worked the puck free in the left corner, and eventually Rob Niedermayer gained control. He handed the puck off behind the net to Rolston, who came out the right side. His pass attempt clipped Washington defenceman Mike Green and caromed past Varlamov into the net.
NOTES: Niedermayer left with an undisclosed injury. He will be evaluated Thursday. … Capitals C Brooks Laich played his 200th consecutive NHL game. … Perreault was recalled from Hershey (AHL) on Tuesday. He earned an assist on Fleischmann’s goal. … Devils C Patrik Elias, out all season following groin surgery, might make his season debut Friday against the Islanders. … Rolston has 99 goals during his two stints with New Jersey.