WASHINGTON — Julien Brouillette won’t be joining his five Washington Capitals teammates who are on their way to play Olympic hockey in Sochi.
He did, however, help send them off on a winning note.
Brouillette broke a scoreless tie with his first NHL goal midway through the third period, Braden Holtby stopped 25 shots and the Washington Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0 Saturday night in the teams’ final game before the Olympic break.
“I couldn’t think of anything. It was so confusing, but great at the same time,” Brouillette said of the goal. “It’s going to be hard to sleep tonight.”
After the Capitals controlled a faceoff in the New Jersey zone, Brouillette beat Cory Schneider on the short side with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle at the 10:50 mark. The goal follows an assist Brouillette earned in his NHL debut Thursday night.
“I’m sure he’s flying pretty high right now,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “Big goal. I haven’t seen the replay yet, but I know it was close to being tipped and the goalie getting frozen there a little bit there. But you know what, (Nicklas Backstrom) won a draw. That’s what it’s about.”
Martin Erat scored an empty-netter with 1:47 left for his first goal of the season to go along with 21 assists, and Troy Brouwer added another — his 100th career goal — 36 seconds later. Backstrom had two assists.
After starting in place of an ill Michael Neuvirth and getting the win Thursday night, Holtby earned his third shutout of the season and 10th in his career in Saturday night’s win.
“He came in there (Thursday night) and played great and played very solid today,” Oates said.
Scoring chances were at a premium for both teams.
“Obviously the Devils play that kind of game. They are will to play it every night, and it’s a frustrating team to play,” Oates said. “They don’t give you much. I looked up with nine minutes left in the third period, and I think it was 20 each in shots. Both teams played stingy.”
Schneider finished with 23 saves.
“We didn’t do enough offensively I thought to draw enough penalties to maybe create some power plays late,” New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. “We had enough chances to get two or three goals. We’ve got to finish something off.”
The win moves Washington to within one point of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 63 points. The Capitals have won three of their last four and snapped a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1) against Metropolitan Division opponents.
“Crucial,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said of the win. “This one a little bit more than the last one, but obviously for our team everything’s crucial right now, and (we’ll) carry a little bit of momentum into the break and we know we have our work cut out for us when we get back.”
New Jersey is in the thick of the hunt with 61 points, and both teams will have 23 games remaining after the break.
“Teams have made late charges and gotten in the playoffs and done some damage in the playoffs. Of course we think there is still time,” Schneider said, “but we’ve got to put words into action here and make it happen.”
The Devils, playing the second of back-to-back games, have lost 5 of 7.
Carlson (United States), Alex Ovechkin (Russia), Backstrom and Marcus Johansson (Sweden) and Erat (Czech Republic) are the Capitals headed to Sochi.
From New Jersey, Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky will be joining the Czech Republic team, and Damien Brunner will play for Switzerland.
The Devils outshot the Capitals 11-6 in the first period as the teams failed to convert two power-play opportunities apiece.
Early in the second, New Jersey’s Adam Henrique took a centering pass and wristed a shot past Holtby, but it banged off the left post.
“I thought we battled hard,” Elias said. “We played most of the game the way we wanted to. They just got the one goal that we didn’t.”
Later in the period Schneider stopped Karl Alzner’s wrister from close range and made two follow-up saves on Jay Beagle.
NOTES: The Capitals finished 0 for 4 on the power play and the Devils were 0 for 3. … New Jersey D Anton Volchenkov (lower body injury) missed his third straight game. … Washington D Mike Green (concussion) missed his fifth game and C Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle injury) missed his eighth. … New Jersey leads the season series 2-1.
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