WASHINGTON — Ilya Kovalchuk scored the tiebreaking goal on a 5-on-3 power play with about 8½ minutes left to complete the New Jersey Devils’ 3-2 comeback victory Thursday night over the Washington Capitals, who have yet to beat any of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
Washington led 2-1 entering the third period, thanks to power-play goals by Mathieu Perrault and Mike Ribeiro.
Andrei Loktionov made it 2-all midway through the last period, and Kovalchuk dropped to a knee as he let the puck fly to put New Jersey ahead for the first time off Patrik Elias’ assist. Elias had scored a short-handed goal in the second period.
The East-worst Capitals dropped to 0-7-1 against the conference’s top six teams. They will get another chance Saturday when they host New Jersey again.
It is the first time the Capitals will play consecutive games — both at home — against one opponent since April 5-7, 2006, against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Thursday’s loss dropped the Capitals to 5-10-1. With only 11 points, Alex Ovechkin’s team entered the day with the fewest in the Eastern Conference and the second-fewest in the 30-team NHL, ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets.
New Jersey, meanwhile, began the day with 22 points, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most in the Atlantic Division and trailing only the Montreal Canadiens’ 23 in the East.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur finished with 17 saves. Washington’s Braden Holtby had 34.
New Jersey outshot Washington 13-4 in the first period, an accurate reflection of the way the Devils tended to control the run of play.
Indeed, 13 minutes into the game, the Capitals had accumulated only two shots, five fewer than the Devils.
Washington’s best chance came with a little more than half a minute to go in the opening period, when Ovechkin deked defenseman Bryce Salvador and broke in alone on Brodeur. But Ovechkin was dumped to the ice by defenseman Andy Greene while shooting — meaning Brodeur had a relatively easy time swatting away the puck with his stick hand. Greene was whistled for tripping.
The Capitals began the second period with nearly 1½ minutes left on that power play, but didn’t threaten.
Later in the second, Ovechkin wrested the puck from defenseman Henrik Tallinder along the boards and headed for Brodeur, only to be upended this time by defenseman Anton Volchenkov.
With Volchenkov off for tripping, and only 15 seconds left on the power play, Washington went ahead 1-0. Troy Brouwer got past Tallinder and Stephen Gionta, then sent a close-range shot on goal. The puck was blocked by Brodeur, but bounced right to a trailing Perrault, who put it at 9:28.
Washington soon earned another power play, and it resulted in a goal for each team. The Devils tied it with a short-handed goal only 20 seconds after the whistle. Capitals defenseman John Carlson was stripped of the puck behind his net, and Adam Henrique set up Elias for his fifth goal at 11:16.
Less than 1½ minutes later, with 16 seconds to go on the man-advantage, Washington took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Ribeiro, whose shot through traffic appeared to be redirected through Brodeur’s legs.
Ribeiro got hit in the back by Gionta at the end of the play and was wincing on the bench afterward.
Notes: Capitals D Mike Green sat out his second game in a row with a lower-body injury. … Devils F Ryan Carter was scratched, three days after leaving a game when he was sandwiched into the boards by Ottawa’s Chris Neil and Dave Dziurzynski. … Elias leads the Devils with 21 points.
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