The Ovechkin-less Capitals came unglued in the final 10 minutes Wednesday night -- and Bergfors, a rookie left wing who admittedly played "bad" in the first and second periods, came alive in the third to burn Washington with two late power-play goals to lift the Devils to a 3-2 victory. It was only their second win in six games at the PrudentialCenter.
"I couldn't really get it going in the first and a little bit of the second maybe, but as soon you get a goal it makes a huge confidence boost," said Bergfors, who doubled his season total to four goals, including three on the power play. "It was a great feeling."
The Devils entered the game just 3-for-26 on the power play in their five previous home games -- a big reason they lost four of them -- but they were 2-for-5 against the Caps.
Washington, which lost Ovechkin to an upper-body strain on Sunday, got a goal from Tomas Fleischmann with 1:37 to play to make it 3-2 but couldn't push the equalizer past Martin Brodeur, who stopped 26 shots for his eighth win of the season.
Taking bad penalties in the third period has become an unwanted theme for Washington in recent games.
For 50 minutes, they played exactly the way they had to without Ovechkin -- patient and disciplined. However, four penalties in the third period, including three in the offensive zone over the last 8:59, were too much to overcome.
Alexander Semin, who committed three infractions and was held to only three shots, went to the box twice in the third, once for hooking and again for interference. Brendan Morrison was also called for hooking between Semin's fouls.
"They're automatic penalties, and it wasn't like it was Mathieu Perreault getting them or Tyler Sloan as a forward," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "When you go behind the net and put your stick on a guy, you're going to get a penalty. … They are just dumb penalties."
"Not only did they not stand out, they cost us the game," Boudreau said. "That's a tough one to swallow."
Bergfors, who was praised Wednesday morning by coach Jacques Lemaire, finally busted out and showed the goal-scoring ability New Jersey fans have been dying to see since the Swedish winger was drafted 23rd overall in 2005.
Jamie Langenbrunner started the breakout from the Devils end that led to Bergfors' first goal with 8:40 to play, breaking a 1-1 tie.
The puck ended up in the middle for Zach Parise, who whipped the pass over to Bergfors in the right circle. The rookie fired a glove-side shot that might have surprised Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov.
"It came right to me and I knew Bergie was coming on the side," Parise said. "I didn't expect him to shoot it like that, but it was a great shot. I don't think (Varlamov) was ready for that shot either."
With Morrison in the box a few minutes later, defenseman Andy Greene set up Travis Zajac for a slap shot from above the right circle. Bergfors was able to get a piece of the shot and deflect it past Varlamov with 4:50 remaining.
The goal was initially awarded to Parise, but he said he didn't touch it. He wasn't aware that it was Bergfors who touched it, but when asked when he knew he had the goal, Bergfors confidently said the moment it deflected off his stick.
"When a power play is struggling, a shot is not a bad idea," Zajac told NHL.com. "We did that. We got some screens in front, a tip on the third goal. That's what it's going to take."
For the second time in as many meetings, the Devils came back to beat Washington.
Tyler Sloan gave the Caps a 1-0 lead with 2:50 to play in the first period, but Brian Rolston tied it for the Devils 3:33 into the second period when his centering pass from the goal line deflected off Mike Green and went directly into the net.
The Devils came back from a 2-0 first-period deficit on Oct. 12 in Washington to beat the Caps, 3-2, in the shootout. Rolston had a goal in that game, and it was the last time he had scored before Wednesday night.
"They are the best team in the League in containing and we knew it was going to be that way, but our focus without Alex is everyone buying in, sticking to the system and not giving up much," Morrison told NHL.com. "We did that except for the last 10 minutes."
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com
|Tyler Sloan (1) ASST: Mathieu Perreault (1), Chris Clark (3)|
1 - 0 WSH
|Brian Rolston (3) ASST: Rob Niedermayer (5), Jamie Langenbrunner (7)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Niclas Bergfors (3) ASST: Zach Parise (9), Travis Zajac (6)|
2 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Niclas Bergfors (4) ASST: Travis Zajac (7), Andy Greene (3)|
3 - 1 NJD
|Tomas Fleischmann (3) ASST: Brooks Laich (9), Mathieu Perreault (2)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Bryce Salvador Hooking against Mike Knuble|
|Alexander Semin Slashing against Colin White|
|Chris Clark Fighting against Rod Pelley|
|Rod Pelley Fighting against Chris Clark|
|Mike Knuble Boarding against Zach Parise|
|Alexander Semin Hooking against Mike Mottau|
|Brendan Morrison Hooking against Bryce Salvador|
|Alexander Semin Interference against Travis Zajac|