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Devils try to snap slump against surging Caps

by John Kreiser
DEVILS (35-23-5) at CAPITALS (32-26-5)


Last 10:
New Jersey 4-4-2; Washington 4-5-1

Season Series: It's the last of four meetings between the teams, who haven't seen each other since New Jersey blew a 3-0 third-period lead at home on Dec. 23, only to win 4-3 in a shootout. The teams exchanged road wins in a home-and-home series in mid-November.

Big Story: Just as the Caps appear to be putting things together after a months-long funk, the Devils have hit a bump on the road to the playoffs. New Jersey comes into the Verizon Center having lost four in a row, including a 4-3 overtime loss at Boston on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Devils: Thursday's visit to Boston got off to a dreadful start for the Devils, who fell behind 2-0 after one period. New Jersey rebounded with three straight goals in the second period, but allowed David Krejci to tie the game early in the third period and win it in OT. The single point was New Jersey's first in four games,

It was also their fourth loss in as many games to the Bruins, a potential first-round playoff opponent.

"I thought we played decent after a tough start," goaltender Martin Brodeur said. "But you know, playoffs are playoffs. I think these guys [the Bruins], they know with the experience they got the past few years and especially last year, that it's a new ballgame when it starts. Hopefully we'll get in and hopefully we'll have an opportunity to play against them because if we do it means we're going to be in a good spot."

Capitals: If the Caps go on to make the playoffs, they'll point to Tuesday's 3-2 overtime win against the Islanders as the turning point of the season. The sellout crowd at Verizon Center was booing as the Isles took a 2-0 lead into the final four minutes, but the Capitals turned the boos to cheers by scoring twice to force OT before Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winner on a brilliant solo rush.

"It was a huge victory for us," Ovechkin said after Washington stretched its winning streak to three. "We needed one goal, and Brouwer got it, and got a second one. Now we are in OT, and I had a lucky goal. I tried probably three times today to get the shot through."

Who's Hot: Ovechkin has two goals and a pair of assists during the Caps' winning streak.

Injury Report: New Jersey is still without center Travis Zajac (Achilles) and defenseman Henrik Tallinder (leg), Neither is close to returning. … Washington's No. 1 center, Nicklas Backstrom, has missed two months with a concussion.

Stat Pack: Ilya Kovalchuk has 25 goals and 54 points in 49 career games against Washington…. The Devils have scored 13 shorthanded goals and allowed 13 -- they lead the NHL in both categories. … Ovechkin has 11 overtime goals since entering the NHL in 2005, the most of any player in that span.

Puck Drop: The Caps are winning without any help from their power play. They were 0-for-4 against the Islanders, 0-for-11 during the winning streak and 2-for-32 in their last nine games.

"We had some opportunities, we changed a few things, we're trying to get more pucks to the net," coach Dale Hunter told the team's website after Thursday's practice. "We're being too cute and trying to make the perfect play. We need to get some pucks to the net and score some ugly goals."

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