Patrik Elias’ tip-in snapped a second-period tie as the Devils beat the Washington Capitals 4-1 on Friday night. Travis Zajac and Zach Parise had power-play goals for the Devils, who have scored with a man advantage in a season-high five straight games. New Jersey has nine power-play goals during its streak, seven over its last three games.
“When we struggle with our special teams, we struggle badly,” said New Jersey coach Claude Julien, whose team had lost four of five games. “Special teams have come around, the power play’s been a lot better and the penalty kill has been very good. Especially on the road, those things have a tendency to make a difference.”
Chris Clark scored for Washington, which has dropped two straight after going 7-1-1.
Ovechkin was limited to five shots and had his point-scoring streak snapped at a season-high eight games. But it took a spectacular save by Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur with 3:18 left in the game to keep Ovechkin pointless.
Brodeur blocked Clark’s shot from between the circles and Ovechkin darted in from the left wing to pounce on the rebound. But Brodeur, who made 35 saves, slid to his right, gobbling up Ovechkin’s attempt in front of the crease.
“If not for Brodeur, we probably score six, seven goals,” said Ovechkin. “He did an unbelievable job, he saved an unbelievable puck.”
Brian Gionta also scored for the Devils, who have beaten the Capitals five straight times. Scott Gomez and Sergei Brylin had two assists each.
New Jersey thwarted four Washington power plays – they’ve killed 18 of 19 opponents’ chances over four games – and kept pace with the Capitals’ ploy of double-shifting Ovechkin to generate more offence.
“He’s dangerous and the guys did a good job on him,” Brylin said of Ovechkin. “It’s like against any other great player. You’ve got to be sharp because he’s going to try to beat you one-on-one.”
The Devils exploited a bad clearing attempt by goaltender Brent Johnson to take a 1-0 lead on Zajac’s power-play goal 5:31 into the second period. Zajac had three whacks at the left post before finally scoring his seventh goal.
Clark tied it about four minutes later, snapping Zubrus’ rebound past Brodeur from the edge of the left circle.
Elias put New Jersey up with 1:06 remaining in the second. The Devils worked the puck around the perimeter before Brad Lukowich unleashed a low wrist shot from the left point. Elias tipped the puck and it slithered under Johnson.
Gionta’s goal 4:51 into the third gave the Devils a two-goal lead. No one picked up Gionta on a two-on-two rush and he scored off a Gomez pass. At 9:52, Parise got his 12th goal, scoring from the right wing for a 4-1 lead.
Notes: Washington recalled LW Alexandre Giroux and D Jeff Schultz from Hershey of the AHL on Friday. Schultz made his NHL debut against the Devils. … RW Cam Janssen returned to the New Jersey lineup after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury. … Capitals D Shaone Morrisonn (flu) was scratched. Washington defencemen John Erskine and Bryan Muir have been diagnosed with foot fractures and are out indefinitely. … The Capitals have not beaten New Jersey since Feb. 19, 2004.