WASHINGTON -- With a game as tight-checking as the one the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals were playing through 50 minutes Friday, the outcome was bound to be decided by some sort of slip-up.
Washington flinched first, turning over the puck midway through the third period and allowing Mike Cammalleri to score an unassisted goal for a 1-0 New Jersey victory at Verizon Center.
"You could kind of sense it the way the game was going," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We were trying to limit their chances. They were doing a good job of limiting ours. It's usually how those things end up, an unlucky bounce, a good play, something like that."
Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, making his 17th consecutive start to open the season, made 30 saves for his first shutout. Schneider has stopped 53 of the last 54 shots he's faced, including a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
"I thought that was a real solid 60-minute effort," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Our goaltender was excellent, penalty kill was very good. That's more along the lines of our identity as a team. Obviously, we would have liked to put a couple more in the net, [but] I thought that was as close to an identity game as we've played in a while."
It ended Washington's three-game winning streak.
"It's just tough when they're playing that real tight structure and they're just not going to give up a whole lot, so you've got to be a little fortunate, I think, and bury a couple chances earlier in the game," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Probably could have had a little bit more urgency earlier in the game. Once we got down a goal, we started really pushing. We started to take some chances because we were down in the game and we didn't have a ton going, but all in all, pretty good structured game from our part. We've got to get a win though."
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby left the crease to settle a puck dumped in by Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas. Holtby sent an errant pass right to Cammalleri below the right circle. Starting at an empty net, the 32-year-old scored his seventh goal of the season with 10:22 remaining.
"That point in the game, you have to pick the safe play and I didn't and it cost us," Holtby said.
Cammalleri said, "I just tried my best to get it off as quick as I could so I could get it back on net. Good thing I hit the net or it would have been bad by me."
The Capitals held a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal in the first period. Two of New Jersey's better chances actually didn't count as shots; Tuomo Ruutu broke free with a toe-drag deke but missed the net early in the period, and Marek Zidlicky's power-play slap shot hit the crossbar with 5:15 remaining.
Schneider stopped three Washington shots in rapid succession after Joel Ward got two whacks at Eric Fehr's rebound four minutes into the game.
The Devils began the second period killing the remainder of a Capitals power play before establishing a territorial edge. New Jersey pinned Washington in its zone for an extended shift, putting seven unanswered shot attempts on goal before the Capitals could escape.
Washington struggled to create any sustained offense throughout the period and was outshot 16-10; Alex Ovechkin didn't register his first shot on goal until 18:14. He finished with two shots; eight attempts were blocked.
New Jersey, which entered the game with the NHL's worst penalty kill, held Washington's second-ranked power play scoreless on four opportunities.
"You always have to know when [Ovechkin] is on the ice, and any time you can keep the puck out of his hands, it's a huge advantage for us," Devils forward Stephen Gionta said. "I think that's something we did a pretty good job of tonight is take away his time and space even on the power play."
Washington begins a three-game Western Conference road trip Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. New Jersey hosts the Colorado Avalanche.
"It's big, especially in this division where everyone is so tight together," Schneider said. "If you start falling behind it can be a problem. After what happened in this building last month (a 6-2 Washington win Oct. 16), it was good to come in and play a really good road game and push past them. We've got to keep winning, you can't just be happy with just one, but divisional games are always a little more important."