Capitals shut down Devils 4-1, grab League lead
Tuesday, 08.16.2011 / 5:15 AM
It took four tries, but the Washington Capitals
finally beat the New Jersey Devils
-- and took over first place in the NHL standings in the process.
The Caps' one-two punch of Alex Ovechkin
and Nicklas Backstrom
was more than the Devils could handle; each had a goal and a pair of assists in Washington's 4-1 victory over the Devils at the Verizon Center on Saturday night.
The victory gave the Capitals 54 points, one more than New Jersey, Pittsburgh and Chicago. They also ended the Devils' five-game winning streak.
It was a win the Capitals needed after losing their first three meetings of the season to the Devils after leading in all three. This time, the Caps took a 2-0 lead in the first period and never took their foot off the accelerator.
"I think we played a complete game," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought it was a great effort on our part."
New Jersey goaltender Brodeur had a 36-12-4 record with a 2.11 goals-against average against Washington heading into the game. But first-period goals by Ovechkin and Matt Bradley gave rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth
more than enough support. He made 29 saves as the Caps outshot New Jersey 40-30.
"These guys had 40 shots on net," Brodeur said. "They're explosive offensively. When you give that kind of a team that many good scoring chances, with that talent, they'll put the puck in the net."
The only goal Neuvirth allowed came on Rod Pelley
's shot that deflected off Washington defenseman John Erskine
's pants and into the net at 17:18 of the first period, cutting Washington's lead to 2-1.
The 21-year old goalie -- playing in just his 10th NHL game -- couldn't hide his delight at beating Brodeur, who set the NHL record for shutouts by getting his 104th in New Jersey's last game before the Christmas break.
"I'm feeling unbelievable right now," Neuvirth said. "I just beat the best goalie in the world, so it's amazing. I used to watch him on TV, so it was something special."
So was Washington's top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alexander Semin
, who signed a one-year contract extension Saturday. They combined for 2 goals, 5 assists and 14 shots and finished plus-3.
It was Ovechkin's third consecutive three-point night.
"We understand each other a lot, and you can see how we control the puck in the offensive zone and we feel pretty good and nobody can stop us," Ovechkin said. "We have to continue playing."
Washington center David Steckel
also played well. He got an assist and won 15 of 21 face-offs, including all eight in the first period.
Ovechkin opened the scoring at 4:09 of the first period. Backstrom won a draw and sent the puck back to Ovechkin, who scored from the left circle. Bradley made it 2-0 at 6:06 on a fluke goal. He took a shot that New Jersey defenseman Mike Mottau appeared to deflect, and the puck was sailing over the net when Brodeur reached high for it -- but it hit his glove, dropped to the ice and rolled in.
Pelley's goal made it 2-1, but Backstrom restored the Capitals' two-goal lead when he took a chip pass from Semin and beat Brodeur with a quick backhand from in front at 9:52 of the second on a play started by Ovechkin.
Ovechkin and Backstrom assisted on Mike Green
's goal 39 seconds into the third period, a shot past Brodeur's catching glove that put the game away.
The Devils had the game's first four power plays, and coach Jacques Lemaire said the failure to capitalize on the advantages was a big reason his team fell to 13-3-1 on the road.
"You look at how the game went. I feel that our puck control wasn't as it used to be," Lemaire said. "Special teams, we had so many power plays and I think they got more chances than we did on our power play. For me, it determined the whole game. We get a goal on the power play at the start, it's a different game, then we start to believe we're fine."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report