NEWARK, N.J. -- The Washington Capitals need more wins like the one they got at Prudential Center on Saturday to establish the identity coach Barry Trotz is looking for out of them this season.
The Capitals got goals from Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle and Evgeny Kuznetsov to take a two-goal lead to second intermission. They withstood the inevitable third-period push from the New Jersey Devils because goalie Braden Holtby played well, making 15 of his 33 saves in the final 20 minutes to preserve what turned into a 4-1 victory with Brooks Laich's empty-net goal.
Washington has won two in a row, including a 2-1 win Thursday at the Carolina Hurricanes. The Capitals moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the New York Rangers, who lost 3-2 at the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
"It's discovering the identity and finding how we're going to have continuous success," Laich said. "You saw it tonight. Nothing plagued us again tonight. Everybody just kind of kept their mouths closed, and the engine was just going, rolling four lines, special teams hustling and working. When we do that I think we're a very dangerous hockey team, but these are the habits that have to be mandatory every single day."
Trotz could do without the 15 shots against in the third period, but he'll take more two-goal leads heading into the third, particularly because of how the Capitals earned it.
Washington went ahead on Alzner's first goal of the season at 3:47 of the first period and didn't dip after New Jersey forward Patrik Elias tied it less than three minutes later. The Capitals then established control in the second period, when Beagle and Kuznetsov scored 3:25 apart to give them a 3-1 lead at 12:40.
"I thought we sat back a little bit in the third, a little bit more than I'd like to see us, but they had a push on and felt if they could get one they could get back in," Trotz said. "They're a team that really gets to the front of the net and use their D a lot, but for the most part we did a pretty good job, and [Holtby] did a really good job for us as well."
In addition to getting out to a lead and later re-establishing it with a cushion, the Capitals continued to maintain their discipline.
Washington didn't give Carolina any power plays Thursday, and killed off the two New Jersey had Saturday, including an opportunity beginning at 6:59 of the third period. Holtby came up big at the end of the kill, when he was in position to stop Jaromir Jagr's redirection attempt from the high slot.
The Capitals allowed eight power-play goals on 13 chances in a four-game stretch prior to their two-game winning streak.
"It makes a big difference," Laich said of staying out of the penalty box. "It allows us to play four lines. It allows our top lines to be fresher. It allows your killers to not have to face your net all night. It doesn't tax our D-men. And it keeps their best players off the ice a little bit more.
"Once teams get to three and four power plays, players are so good they're going to make you pay. Discipline has been great for us."
The Devils were unable to gain some traction of their own after beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Thursday to snap a five-game losing streak (0-3-2). They even had Jagr (flu) and Elias (groin) back in the lineup after each veteran forward didn't play at Air Canada Centre.
New Jersey has scored one goal or been shut out in four of its past six games.
"It's disappointing we weren't the better team," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "They were better on the power play than we were. They were better on the penalty kill than we were. Their goalie was better than our goalie. It was across the board."
The Devils have played the fewest home games in the NHL (10), but they're only 3-4-3 at Prudential Center. They heard boos from the home crowd during their power play in the third period.
"If we don't have a great home record, we're not getting in the playoffs," DeBoer said. "That's the bottom line."
The game turned midway through the second, when Holtby denied Devils center Adam Henrique on a shorthanded breakaway with a blocker save. Henrique could have tied the game at 2-2, but instead Kuznetsov scored 72 seconds later to give Washington a 3-1 lead.
"I've got to score there," Henrique said.
Kuznetsov made the Devils pay for giving him extra room in the right circle. He used it by carrying the puck to the dot before beating goalie Cory Schneider with a short-side snap shot over the shoulder on the blocker side for his third goal.
"On that one my job was to be in front, and [Kuznetsov's] job was to shoot it," Laich said. "The kid walks in and picks the top corner. It's a great shot and at the time a very big goal for us."
Beagle put Washington ahead 2-1 at 9:15 of the second period with his fourth goal, tying a career-high he set in 62 games last season. Beagle has scored his four goals in 21 games this season.
Washington defenseman John Carlson set up Beagle with a stretch pass to the far blue line. The puck hit off Capitals center Michael Latta's shin pads and went right to Beagle, who beat Devils defenseman Andy Greene through the right circle before making a move on Schneider that left him an open net.
As soon as Beagle put the puck into the net, he half-dove through the crease, catching some air.
"I see it in practice every day," Carlson said of Beagle using his skill to score a goal like that. "He's the hardest worker I know, and it's good for him that he's getting rewarded like he has been."
The Capitals are starting to get rewarded too, but only because they finally seem on their way to establishing an identity as a disciplined, hardworking, heavy-forechecking team. More of the same will likely yield more positive results.
"It doesn't mean much if you win one game and revert back to your old ways the next game," Capitals forward Jason Chimera said. "If we keep playing like this we're going to give ourselves a good chance to win. We've gotta follow it up in Tampa with another good effort too."
Washington will wrap up its three-game road trip Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning. New Jersey will try to snap its losing streak at Carolina on Monday.