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Devils beat Caps for ninth straight win

by John Kreiser
The New Jersey Devils defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Friday night for their ninth straight victory.
The New Jersey Devils honored new Hall of Famer Scott Stevens before Friday night’s game against Washington, then played the kind of hockey they became famous for during his 13 seasons in New Jersey.
Vitaly Vishnevski and Dainius Zubrus scored 4:15 apart in the first period, and the Devils beat the Capitals 3-2 for their ninth consecutive victory. Travis Zajac added a goal in the third period and Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for the Devils, who matched the third-longest winning streak in team history.
Even though this wasn't the best-looking win in the streak, it had the fans at the Prudential Center yelling and cheering, and even breaking out ''The Wave'' in the third period.
''I noticed,'' Brodeur said. ''Winning makes it a lot easier on the crowd to be loud. It's an old trick they took out from the 80s.''
After the Capitals had four of the first five shots during the opening 10 minutes, the Devils showed why they’ve surged into first place in the Atlantic Division after a 7-10-2 start — and how Washington has sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings. Capitals defenseman Brian Pothier tried to clear the puck from deep in his zone, but Vishnevski intercepted his pass at the blue line. The Devils defenseman carried the puck into the right circle on his backhand and zipped a shot past Kolzig at 11:42. It was his first goal in 56 games, dating to last Dec. 27 while he was playing with Atlanta.
The Devils made it 2-0 at 15:57 when Zubrus knocked in a rebound after Kolzig made a pad stop on Patrik Elias’ power-play shot.
''The first period was the difference in the game. We had no reason to come out sluggish,'' said Washington forward Brooks Laich, whose late goal got the Caps within one. ''The days of practice were good for us. I don't think we can use that as a crutch at all.''
After a scoreless second period, Alexander Semin spoiled Brodeur's shutout bit by scoring at 5:48 of the third. Zajac pushed the lead back to two goals 41 seconds later, and Laich made it 3-2 with 1:17 left and Kolzig on the bench for a sixth attacker.
''We made too many mistakes, and they ended up in the back of the net,'' Kolzig said. ''We made the job a lot harder on ourselves.''
The Devils’ longest came when they won the last 11 games of the 2005-06 season to finish first in the Atlantic Division. New Jersey tries for its 10th straight win on Sunday in New York against the Rangers after sweeping a five-game homestand to improve to 8-4 at the new Prudential Center.
''It takes a while to build up a home-ice advantage,'' Elias said. ''I'm glad we've done as good of a job as we did.''
Despite the presence of superstar Alex Ovechkin, who assisted on Laich’s goal, the Caps are last in the NHL with just 20 points. They are 6-17-2 after a 3-0-0 start.
''We're a team that needs 20 guys to go,'' said Bruce Boudreau, 3-3-1 since taking over as interim coach. ''As I told them after two periods, you can't rely on No. 8 (Ovechkin) to win every game for you.''
Many of the current Devils played with Stevens and were glad to see him honored in the pregame ceremony.
''It's great to have Scotty recognized in this building ... but at the same time it had nothing to do with our game,'' Elias said. ''This is our own team now, different team. We just wanted to keep the winning streak going.''
Stevens entered the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12 along with Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, and Mark Messier. He captained the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles and had 196 goals and 712 assists for 908 points and 2,785 penalty minutes in 1,635 regular-season games, including 93 goals and 337 assists for 430 points in 956 games with the Devils. His 1,615 games played as a defenseman are the most in NHL history.

Stevens began his career with the Capitals in 1982-83 and played eight seasons in Washington before joining the St. Louis Blues for one season before joining the Devils.

Material from wire services and team media were used in this report.
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