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Devils defeat Capitals, head to Stadium Series

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils can officially begin preparations for the New York Rangers in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Stephen Gionta and Adam Henrique scored, and goalie Cory Schneider earned his ninth victory of the season with 30 saves in a 2-1 victory against the Washington Capitals on Friday at Prudential Center.

The win comes three days after the Devils defeated the St. Louis Blues 7-1.

In the weeks leading up to the marquee event at Yankee Stadium, Devils coach Peter DeBoer refused to discuss the game against the Rangers. Instead, he remained steadfast and focused on the remaining schedule.

Mission accomplished.

"I think I'll start to think about [Sunday] on the way home," DeBoer said. "It's going to be a great day. It's Yankee Stadium and it's the Rangers. It's a once in a lifetime experience and I'm excited about it."

DeBoer said Schneider was his best player against the Capitals.

"Cory has given us great goaltending," DeBoer said. "He was the difference [Friday]."

DeBoer wouldn't reveal whether Schneider or Martin Brodeur would start Sunday.

"I'll sleep on it and make a decision first thing [Saturday]," DeBoer said.

Asked about the possibility of starting Sunday, Schneider remained humble.

"It's a special game and Marty has been a big part of this franchise," Schneider said. "He's gotten a lot of wins for us this year. Whether he picks him or me, I don't think it changes the way we feel about it. We both trust each other and respect the way we're playing. If he chooses me, it's great, but this is a game that would probably mean a lot to Marty, having never played an outdoor game in his career.

"I'm sure he would really enjoy it."

The Capitals scored their first goal in seven periods, dating to a 4-1 loss Sunday to the Rangers, when Jason Chimera tipped a shot past Schneider midway through the third period. John Erskine took the initial shot from the left point that Chimera deftly redirected into the top left corner on a waist-high attempt at 10:10. The goal snapped a scoring drought of 149:11.

"We knew they would push back and you have to respect that; I think we didn't have our best game but came away with the two points and that's all that matters," Devils captain Bryce Salvador said.

Washington was without NHL goal-scoring leader Alex Ovechkin for the second straight game with an undisclosed lower-body injury he apparently sustained Jan. 19 against the Rangers. Without their ailing captain, the Capitals have scored once in two games. The team is winless in seven (0-5-2) and has been outscored 21-8 over that stretch.

Ovechkin missed two games in November with a shoulder injury, but the Capitals won each game. The Capitals are 13-10-2 with Ovechkin out of the lineup.

The Capitals also played the third period against the Devils without forward Mikhail Grabovski, who sustained a lower-body injury in the second. Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth, seeking his first win since Jan. 10, finished with 28 saves.

Henrique gave the Devils a 2-0 lead early in the third period when he collected a picturesque pass from Jagr in the slot and scored his 14th goal of the season with his team on the power play. Jagr took a lead pass from Travis Zajac and skated low into the right circle before dishing to Henrique at 1:45.

"That was a great play by [Jagr]; Merry Christmas [to me]," Henrique said. "The whole entry up the ice on that play was executed well on the power play and [Jagr] made a great pass."

The assist, Jagr's second of the game, pulled the 41-year-old right wing into a tie with former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux for 10th on the all-time NHL list with 1,033.

Schneider made certain the two-goal lead would stand with some solid goaltending late in the second period when Washington was given its second power play of the game after Jagr was whistled for slashing. Schneider made three of his 14 saves on that penalty kill, stopping John Carlson, Joel Ward and Martin Erat in a span of 10 seconds while moving about the crease.

"As a goalie, you want that rhythm and have the chance to pick up where you left off," Schneider said. "I've been able to do that and gain that confidence."

Schneider is 5-1-2 with an 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in his past eight starts dating to Dec. 28. His 1.84 GAA is second in the League to Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild (1.65).

The Devils opened a 1-0 lead when Stephen Gionta, playing his 100th NHL game, scored his third of the season at 4:57 of the first period. After taking a feed from Jagr in the neutral zone, Gionta skated into the Capitals end and fired a shot from the right circle that beat Neuvirth to the long side, just underneath the blocker.

Schneider made seven saves in the first, including two big stops at the right post against Erat and Eric Fehr at 7:26. The goalie also denied consecutive wrist shots by Fehr and Mike Green late in the period when the Capitals were on the power play, two of his eight saves during three Washington advantages.

The outdoor game at Yankee Stadium between the Devils and Rangers is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC, CBC). The Devils will then embark on a three-game road trip against the Blues, Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators before returning home Feb. 3 to play the Colorado Avalanche.

Washington will play the second of a five-game road trip Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. It ends Jan. 31 against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.


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