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game recap

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin power Capitals in win

Forward scores twice, captain gets 23rd goal of season against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice and Alex Ovechkin got his 23rd goal of the season to help the Washington Capitals to a 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Thursday.

Andre Burakovsky had a goal and an assist, Lars Eller scored, and Braden Holtby made 27 saves for the Capitals (33-10-6), who are 13-1-2 in the past 16 games. Kuznetsov scored his second goal into an empty net with 1:53 left in the third period.

"A month ago, we probably didn't think we would be where we are now, but our game has come together," Holtby said. "This wasn't our best hockey by any means, but we got some key goals at big moments."

 

WATCH: All Capitals vs. Devils highlights

 

Washington has allowed two or fewer goals 32 times this season (26-1-5).

"Our system demands five guys to play defense; when you have that, it's really tough to get anything on us," Holtby said. "When we're mentally prepared and focused, we're tough."

Stefan Noesen and Adam Henrique scored, and Keith Kinkaid allowed four goals on 17 shots before being replaced by Cory Schneider midway through the second period for the Devils (20-21-9). New Jersey has lost three of its past four games and six straight at home (0-5-1).

Video: WSH@NJD: Burakovsky roofs puck over Kinkaid for PPG

Henrique made it 4-2 off a redirection that beat Holtby inside the left post at 18:16.

The Capitals took a 4-1 lead on goals by Eller and Kuznetsov in a span of 1:50 midway through the second. After Kuznetsov scored a power-play goal at 10:19, Devils coach John Hynes replaced Kinkaid with Schneider, who made 18 saves.

It marked the second straight game Hynes pulled the Devils' starter. Kinkaid replaced Schneider to begin the second period in a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

"You feel terrible for Schneider and Kinkaid because they've stood on their heads numerous times, bailed me out personally, and bailed out our team on many occasions," Devils defenseman Jon Merrill said. "For us to leave them out to dry like that isn't fair."

Noesen, who was making his Devils debut after being claimed off waivers Wednesday from the Anaheim Ducks, scored 3:19 into the second to pull New Jersey within 2-1.

The Capitals took advantage of two turnovers by the Devils for a 2-0 lead in the first.

Ovechkin stole the puck from defenseman Kyle Quincey and scored off a backhand at 6:14. Burakovsky scored a power-play goal at 18:28 off a loose puck in the slot.

It was the last game for each team prior to the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.

Video: WSH@NJD: Eller slams a rebound into the twine in 2nd

 

Goal of the game

Ovechkin scored his 548th NHL goal 6:14 into the first period off a steal and backhand under the crossbar to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. The goal tied him with Michel Goulet for 28th on the NHL all-time list.

Video: WSH@NJD: Ovechkin forces turnover, opens the scoring

 

Save of the game

With the Capitals holding a 1-0 lead in the first period, Holtby used his right pad to deny Travis Zajac off a pass from Taylor Hall at 10:45.

Video: WSH@NDJ: Holtby closes pads to deny Zajac in deep

 

Highlight of the game

Kuznetsov scored to give the Capitals a 4-1 lead in the second. After controlling a pass from Orlov at the Devils blue line, he skated past defenseman Steven Santini and got enough of the puck off his backhand to beat Kinkaid.

Video: WSH@NJD: Kuznetsov eludes a defenseman, beats Kinkaid

 

Unsung performance of the game

Noesen had a good debut for the Devils on a line with Pavel Zacha and Jacob Josefson. He scored after taking a pass from Zacha down the slot and beat Holtby over the blocker.

"[Noesen] played great, was strong on the puck, and got in on the forecheck," Devils forward Kyle Palmieri said. "I've seen him do these things before when I was with Anaheim during training camp."

Video: WSH@NJD: Noesen tallies off Zacha's centering pass

 

They said it

"We did a good job of understanding the emotions of the game because things were starting to ramp up and they were starting to make a push [when the score was 2-1]. We capitalized on a couple quick goals and began playing the game we wanted to play instead of getting in an up-and-down race with them." -- Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt

 

"I still believe we have a team that can play well and win games. That's our objective right now. The reality is we are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now. We just have to keep grinding and just get better, play better and win games. That's going to be a tough task, but hopefully we can come together as a group after the All-Star break and string some together at home." -- Devils goaltender Cory Schneider

 

Need to know

Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie did not play in order to attend to personal matters in Washington. ... Trotz said defenseman John Carlson, who has missed the past six games with a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup after the All-Star break. ... Ovechkin has 21 goals and 26 assists in 44 games against New Jersey. ... The last time the Devils had their starting goalie pulled in consecutive games was Nov. 6-7, 2014.

 

What's next

Capitals: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, CSN-DC+, NHL.TV)

Devils: At the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, MSG+ 2, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Kuznetsov, Holtby lead Capitals to 5-2 victory

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