WASHINGTON (AP) - Scott Clemmensen ran his fingers over the indentation on the cage of his goalie's mask, a battle scar from his first victory in 11 months.
Jamie Langenbrunner's power-play goal broke a third-period tie, Clemmensen won in his first appearance since Dec. 14 and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday.
"I was kind of hoping my first win (of the year) wouldn't be in February, but so be it," Clemmensen said.
Langenbrunner snapped a 2-2 tie 16 seconds into a tripping penalty by Brian Pothier on Mike Rupp, chipping a high shot from between the circles with 9:56 left in regulation. The puck bounced by Brent Johnson as New Jersey's Scott Gomez was being cross-checked into the goal by Shaone Morrisonn.
Washington had tied the game less than a minute earlier on Alex Ovechkin's team-leading 35th goal, a blistering wrister that bent Clemmensen's wire face protection, much to the goalie's amazement.
"I've been hit in the mask a lot - the cage will bend, it takes the velocity off the puck and it will drop in front of you," Clemmensen said. "I can't believe it hit me, bent my cage and went in. It had to have been a really hard shot."
Zach Parise and Travis Zajac each had a goal and an assist for the Devils, who have won four straight road games and four of five overall.
"The finish wasn't quite there early on, but sure enough, we scored the winner on the power play on what you could probably call a garbage goal," Devils coach Claude Julien said.
Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals, who have lost six of seven and were bidding for a home-and-home weekend sweep of the Devils.
"Overall, we played fairly patient hockey for six periods, against most likely the most patient, sound defensive team," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "So six pretty good periods and it came down to one shot."
Instead, Clemmensen - in his second start of the year - made 23 saves for his first victory since March 24, 2006. New Jersey averted its first losing streak since dropping three straight from Dec. 12-16.
"I tried to be as comfortable as I could out there," Clemmensen said. "Once I got a couple of saves, I felt more and more comfortable. As you get more comfortable, you get more confident."
Martin Brodeur got the first 38 wins for the Devils, the most consecutive wins for a goalie to start a season in NHL history.
Laich put Washington up 1-0 16:02 into the opening period. John Erskine's drive from the left point careened off the skate of New Jersey's Jay Pandolfo in the left circle and Laich knocked in the rebound from the right side.
New Jersey tied it on Parise's team-high 26th goal 5:34 into the second. Stationed between the circles, Parise converted a left-wing feed from Zajac.
Zajac was at the right post to give the Devils a 2-1 lead with 18:23 remaining in the third period. Parise's shot went between Johnson's pads, bounced off his right skate and Zajac popped in the loose puck at the left post.
But the lead lasted only until Ovechkin got his first goal in six games with 10:47 to go. Using defenceman Paul Martin as a screen during a dash down the left wing, Ovechkin snapped the mask-bending wrist shot from the left circle.
"I got it in - finally," Ovechkin said.
Notes: Parise has five goals in seven games. ... The Devils scratched RW Brian Gionta (groin) for a sixth straight game, while Washington RW Eric Fehr (sore back) sat out his second consecutive game. ... Attendance was announced at 14,585, but a winter storm kept many seats empty.