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Capitals end Devils' season-starting win streak

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- When the Washington Capitals hired Barry Trotz as coach in May, among the most prevalent questions was how the defensive reputation he cultivated with the Nashville Predators would mesh with his new team's offensive firepower.

There has been no lack of goal scoring so far for Washington, exemplified by a 6-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center on Thursday.

Six players scored for the Capitals, who have 16 goals through four games.

"We've got some dynamic people," Trotz said. "I don't think I've ever had a guy in the middle like [Nicklas] Backstrom and I haven't had a guy up front who can score like [Alex Ovechkin]. We've got some young, dynamic people."

Rookie Damon Severson scored twice for the Devils, who had their three-game winning streak broken in the final game of a season-opening four-game road trip. Cory Schneider stopped 21 shots before he was pulled in the third period. Scott Clemmensen made six saves in relief.

"I thought we had an excellent first period," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "I thought we could have had three or four goals. We didn't cash in and we came out of the period 2-2 and [the Capitals] got better in the second and the third. We shot ourselves with too many penalties and got a little away from our game plan."

Thirty-four seconds into the game, Ovechkin scored his fifth goal of the season. Schneider stopped Troy Brouwer's wrist shot on the rush, but the rebound caromed to Ovechkin in the high slot. Ovechkin settled the puck and cut to his right before beating Schneider. It was the sixth-fastest goal of his career and the first first-period goal allowed by New Jersey this season.

"It was a good breakout, a little bit of a turnover by them, and we were able to capitalize on it," Brouwer said. "[Ovechkin] driving the net and picking up the rebound, doing what he does."

Severson tied the game midway through the period. After Capitals goalie Braden Holtby thwarted Mike Cammalleri's chance from in tight, Travis Zajac slid the rebound to the Severson near the point. With traffic in front, the defenseman's slap shot eluded Holtby at 10:15.

Less than a minute later, Chris Brown gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead on a sharp-angle slap shot at 11:02. Severson tied the game for the second time in the period at 16:36, the result of another slap shot through heavy traffic.

The Devils had several quality scoring changes in the period, including two by Cammalleri that Holtby snagged with his glove. Later, Holtby slid across the crease to make a save with his left arm on Jaromir Jagr during a New Jersey power play.

"Braden Holtby was really good in the first," Trotz said. "They could've put a couple of goals on us and he made some big saves at key times when the game was 2-2. Up 3-2, he made a big save. That's what good goaltenders do. They give you the timely saves."

Marcus Johansson gave the Capitals a 3-2 second-period lead at 6:18. Brooks Laich won a battle along the left-wing boards, finding Johansson in open space near the high slot. It was a rare even-strength goal for the 24-year-old, who scored two in 80 games last season.

"After the first game, I think he realized he's got to shoot a little more," Backstrom said of Johansson. "He's been doing that. Two goals, two games now."

Devils forward Martin Havlat left the game late in the second period after absorbing a Jason Chimera check and colliding face-first with referee Darcy Burchell. Havlat, who was led off the ice with a towel covering his face, did not return and no official update was provided.

Backstrom and Joel Ward scored about three minutes apart in the third period. Backstrom deflected Matt Niskanen's point shot past Schneider at 0:56, then Ward took advantage of a fortuitous bounce as his wide shot attempt caromed off the end boards, struck Schneider and trickled into the net at 3:25.

"They got a good break on the fourth one and then obviously the fifth one, it's all on me and it just really took the wind out of our sails," Schneider said.

Andre Burakovsky scored a power-play goal at 8:55. The Capitals rookie has at least one point in each of his first four NHL games.

"It's early in the year. A lot can change, but two points is two points. They're in the bank now," Niskanen said. "Things that felt good for us [are] the process of how we want to play and who we're going to be. You saw at times even tonight, where we weren't that detailed and we weren't that good and they had some good looks and Holtby had to bail us out, keep it tight, then we got to what our game should look like and we had good success. That's encouraging. Hopefully guys can believe in it now."

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