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Devils go for sweep of pair in Washington

by Brian Hunter

DEVILS (10-3-4) at CAPITALS (5-10-1)


Last 10: New Jersey 7-2-1; Washington 5-10-1

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The Devils have won both prior matchups by 3-2 scores, in overtime at Prudential Center on Jan. 25, and at Verizon Center on Feb. 21. Ilya Kovalchuk had the decisive goal in both contests.

Big story: Washington gets an immediate opportunity to avenge another difficult loss in a season that has already been full of them. The Capitals seemed in solid position to gain points after 40 minutes had been played Thursday, but a parade to the penalty box in the third period helped the Devils recapture momentum and eventually pull out a 3-2 victory.

Team Scope:

Devils: Kovalchuk wasn't on the ice for the entire third period Thursday, it just seemed that way. He led New Jersey in ice time at 28:58, and nearly half of that came in the final 20 minutes, when the Devils were awarded five straight power plays, including a pair of lengthy 5-on-3 man advantages. They came up empty the first time, but Kovalchuk connected for the game-winning goal on the second, with 8:20 remaining. Earlier in the third, countryman Andrei Loktionov tied the score with his first of the season, off the rebound of an Adam Larsson shot.

"It was one of those nights, we had to stay with it and obviously, in the third [period], we got the opportunities on the power play," said Patrik Elias, who assisted on Kovalchuk's goal and had a shorthanded tally of his own in the second.

Capitals: Live by the power play, die by the power play -- Washington ranks third in the NHL in conversion percentage at 26.8 percent, and the Capitals struck twice in the second period Thursday on goals by Mathieu Perreault and Mike Ribeiro. But they also yielded the shorthander to Elias and in the third Matt Hendricks, Tomas Kundratek, Alex Ovechkin, John Erskine and Tom Poti all took minor penalties in the span of eight minutes. The Capitals hung on as long as they could, but didn't do enough to get Braden Holtby (34 saves) a win.

"It's frustrating and we talked about it. We have to be more disciplined," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "It's not good enough. The first 5-on-3 we did a good job, but we got another one right after."

Who's hot: Elias recorded his sixth multi-point game of the season Thursday and ranks in the top 10 in scoring with 21 points. … Troy Brouwer, who leads the Capitals with seven goals, had assists on both power-play scores against the Devils.

Injury report: New Jersey forward Ryan Carter (head) didn't make the trip after leaving Monday's game against Ottawa. Forward Dainius Zubrus (wrist) is out 4-6 weeks after wrist surgery. … Washington defenseman Mike Green (lower body) and forward Marcus Johansson (upper body) are day-to-day. Defensemen Jack Hillen (upper body) and Dmitry Orlov (upper body) and forward Brooks Laich (groin) are on injured reserve.

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