NEWARK, N.J. – Washington coach Bruce Boudreau rolled his eyes and sported a priceless look on his face when asked about getting Michael Nylander to shoot the puck more.
Unlike Alexander Ovechkin, Nylander sees himself as more a passer and tends to eschew scoring chances. Tuesday night was an exception.
Nylander scored twice for the first time since Dec. 29, 2007 and the Capitals snapped the New Jersey Devils’ season-high eight-game winning streak with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.
“He doesn’t like to shoot,” Boudreau said. “We have a few of those guys, and then we have one guy who shoots every chance he gets. He makes up for those guys.”
Nylander smirked when asked about shooting more, knowing he has heard that from coaches throughout his 14 seasons in the NHL.
“I should have done that for many years,” said Nylander, who now has 207 career goals. “It’s good when you are shooting to see the puck go in. I know I think we played pretty good as a team.”
Defenceman Mike Green, who scored for the fourth straight game, was thrilled to see Nylander get going with his sixth and seventh goals.
“He is potentially one of our top forwards,” Green said. “He has been finding his game in the D-zone and finally finding offensively. He has been a big part of our wins lately and hopefully, he’ll continue it.”
Ovechkin added two assists and the Capitals converted three of four power plays to win their third straight game and sixth in eight.
Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr also scored and Jose Theodore made 32 saves in handing the Devils their first loss since Jan. 11.
Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rolston scored for New Jersey in the matchup of Atlantic and Southeast division leaders.
The Devils fell three points behind Washington for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I’m still trying to figure out why we played like this against an opponent who is a game up on us in the standings,” Coach Brent Sutter said.
Washington built a 3-0 lead, converting two power plays in the first period.
“I think we were opportunistic,” Boudreau said of the power play. “I don’t think we were great. We didn’t have the puck movement we normally have, but when we had a chance, we put it in.”
Green, who leads all NHL defencemen in goals this season, got his 16th on a great cross-ice pass by Alexander Semin. Green darted in from the right point and Semin found him in the right circle for a shot over Clemmensen’s glove at 5:58.
“You look at the pass Semin gave me and he didn’t even look at me,” said Green, who has nine goals and 13 assists in his last 16 games.
Laich got his 12th of the season less than three minutes later, and just eight seconds after Langenbrunner was called for hooking. Nylander won the faceoff and sent the puck to Green at the left point. He sent a pass to Ovechkin in the right circle and the Russian quickly centred it to Laich for a slam dunk into an open net.
Clemmensen, who is 22-10-1 since replacing the injured Martin Brodeur, handed Nylander both his goals.
The first came early in the second when the Devils goaltender failed to control a shot by Fehr. Boyd Gordon got the loose puck and centred it to Nylander for a shot into an open net.
The Devils, who rallied for overtime wins over Boston and Pittsburgh in their last two games, staged another rally to get within a goal.
Rolston scored his ninth of the season just seconds after New Jersey got a two-man advantage midway through the second.
Langenbrunner, who had three straight two-goal games, got the crowd back in the game early in the third period, scoring his 15th of the season on a short-handed breakaway.
Theodore stopped a Travis Zajac chance on the same Washington power play and he made another good stop on David Clarkson before Nylander put the game away with a shot between Clemmensen’s pads on a power play that occurred after Mike Rupp ran into Theodore after apparently being tripped by a Washington defenceman.
“Tonight we weren’t as sharp as we usually are and when you play a team like Washington, they are very dangerous, especially on the power play, it is going to catch up to you,” Clemmensen said. “Tonight it did.”
Fehr closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:10 to play.
Notes: The Capitals called up goaltender Michal Neuvirth from Hershey (AHL) because Brent Johnson was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. The Czech Republic native is the sixth goaltender to dress for Washington this season. … Washington won the season series with New Jersey 2-0-2. … The Caps are 11-1-2 vs. the Atlantic Division. … Laich’s goal snapped a 13-game drought. … Washington is 20-2-2 when leading after the first period.