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Ovechkin helps Capitals top Devils to start season

by Katie Brown

WASHINGTON -- Coach Barry Trotz wasn't pleased with how the Washington Capitals started their season against the New Jersey Devils.

But the Capitals had Alex Ovechkin to bail them out.

Ovechkin scored to break a third-period tie and help the Capitals to a 5-3 win at Verizon Center on Saturday.

"We're very fortunate to have a guy like Ovi who didn't really do anything early in the game, [he] was a non-factor," Trotz said. "When the game was on the line he became a big factor."

The Capitals allowed the Devils to score two goals in less than three minutes and tie the game 2-2 in the first period.

"I didn't like the first period," Trotz said. "We looked like a team that was a little rusty, hadn't played, and we weren't playing at game speed. They were playing at game speed and we weren't."

Forwards Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen scored for the Capitals. Ovechkin scored at 6:33 of the third period to give Washington a 3-2 lead.

"He's pretty powerful," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. "The way he can shoot the puck, he gets so much respect in this league."

Forwards Adam Henrique, Mike Cammalleri and defenseman Eric Gelinas scored for the Devils, who lost their opener to the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Friday.

"It was a good game," Devils coach John Hynes said. "A lot of things we talked about wanting to accomplish coming into tonight's game we were able to do as far as our work ethic, our compete level, playing more to the identity we wanted, and we were in a really good hockey game. Unfortunately, when the game was on the line, we didn't respond the right way after that [Alex Ovechkin] goal."

Holtby made 21 saves. New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid made 22 starting in place of Cory Schneider in the second of the back-to-back.

Holtby said he thought the Capitals rebounded well from a poor first period but having six days between the last preseason game and the first regular-season game left them with a little rust to shake off.

"I think the break kind of got to us and we were a step behind, myself included," Holtby said. "Barry got us going after the first and we pulled out a win, but it wasn't our best hockey game."

Chimera scored a shorthanded goal at 12:04 of the first period to make it 1-0. Justin Williams entered the Devils zone and fed a drop pass to Chimera, who scored from the point with a wrist shot deflected by Devils forward Jordin Tootoo.

It was Chimera's first shorthanded goal since Feb. 7, 2012, and the first time in Capitals history that their first goal of the season was scored shorthanded.

"The first game you're just excited and a little nervous and of course sometimes you have to play more simple," Ovechkin said. "We scored two goals but I don't think we had a very good first [period]. We tried to play simple in the third and I think we did a pretty good job."

Orpik gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead at 14:32 with a snap shot from the slot off a pass from Tom Wilson that beat Kinkaid on his blocker side. The goal was Orpik's first with Washington and his first in 91 NHL games.

"[Wilson] made a great play," Orpik said. "He kind of held onto [the puck] for an extra second and let the one guy get out of position and opened him up. He made the whole play; it was a pretty easy spot for me."

Orpik had wrist surgery on July 28 and was unable to play during preseason.

Twenty-two seconds after his goal, Henrique scored to cut the lead to 2-1. He skated into the zone unchallenged and scored on Holtby off a pass from Jiri Tlusty. Henrique broke his 13-game goalless streak dating to March 17.

Gelinas, a healthy scratch Friday, scored on a power play at 17:40 to tie the game at 2-2. Lee Stempniak passed to Gelinas, who beat Holtby on his blocker side with a slap shot from the point.

Ovechkin skated into the Devils zone past defenseman John Moore and roofed a tight-angle wrist shot past Kinkaid to break the tie.

"Ovechkin's goal to get the lead was the turning point in the sense that we had played so well and we were right in it, that I think sometimes that in the stage we're at right now, the next goal for us would have been a little bit more energizing," Hynes said.

Johansson gave the Capitals a 4-2 lead with a power-play goal at 12:44 off an Ovechkin rebound.

"Usually that back door is pretty wide open and he found it and Marcus did a great job putting it in," Holtby said.

With Kinkaid pulled, Niskanen scored an empty-net goal at 17:07. Cammalleri made it 5-3 with an unassisted goal at 18:39.

Devils forward Brian O'Neill made his NHL debut. The 27-year-old was the MVP of the American Hockey League last season playing for Manchester.

Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov had an assist in his first NHL game since April 13, 2014.

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