WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Devils found themselves down 3-0 early in the third and never gained enough ground in a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Capitals at Capital One Arena. Alex Ovechkin would record a hat trick, pacing his team in the victory.
"I thought we played on our heels a little bit," said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "We knew they'd come out because of last game and they're a good team. There's a reason why they're the best team in the league. A little bit too much respect maybe, playing on our heels and waiting to see what was going to happen. It was clear before the game we wanted to impose our style of play and they did it better than we did."
It was a bit of a revenge game for Washington after they lost to these Devils 5-1 in this building on Jan. 11.
Ovechkin's power-play goal at 15:17 of the first period made it a 1-0 game for the Capitals and the Russian phenom reached 30 goals at 19:08 of the same frame, increasing the lead to two.
The Devils wrap up this road trip in Columbus against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. The game can be seen on MSG+ and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. ET.
Ovechkin has now reached 30 or more goals for 15 consecutive seasons, becoming just one of three NHL players to ever do so (Jaromir Jagr, Mike Gartner) and he's the only one to do it for one franchise.
Things got worse for New Jersey just 16 seconds into the second. Carl Hagelin scored from the slot to make it three unanswered for Washington.
Then the Devils answered.
Wayne Simmonds buried a sweet behind-the-net, behind-the-back feed from Nico Hischier to make it a 3-1 game at 1:08 of the second. Will Butcher recorded the second assist.
Hischier nearly set up Damon Severson later in the period when he outraced the Capitals to the puck in deep and saucer-passed a beauty to the defenseman out in front. Severson was denied by Ilya Samsonov, however, keeping it a two-goal game.
The Devils managed to kill off an key double-minor penalty in the second, as well. But they still trailed by two heading into the third period. Cory Schneider came into the game in the middle frame in relief of Louis Domingue, who left with a lower-body injury.
"A little surprising, I guess," said Schneider. "I found out about halfway through intermission I was going in. You almost don't have time to do anything. You just go in there. Obviously, not a great start but I felt I settled in and managed it pretty well. I just tried to get in the game a little bit and find a rhythm."
Schneider finished the game with 20 saves on 23 shots.
At 3:34 of the third, Blake Coleman scored his fourth goal of this road trip (in two games thus far), burying on a breakaway with the use of a nice move in front. The shorthanded goal made it 3-2 and it looked like the Devils were in business.
But Jakub Vrana popped the Devils balloon at 6:42, giving Washington their two-goal lead back.
Later in the period, it appeared as though the Devils would head on a four-minute power play in a crucial point in the game but the officials reviewed the play and determined it was a puck and not the stick that hit Nikita Gusev in the face.
Ovechkin sent hats flying with 4:18 left on the clock in the third period, putting the game out of reach and putting his stamp on the win. It's the second game in a row the Devils have allowed an opposing player to record a hat trick on them.