NEWARK, N.J. -- The Washington Capitals regained first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-1 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.
Brett Connolly scored his 20th goal of the season, and Pheonix Copley made 20 saves for the Capitals (43-23-7), who moved two points ahead of the New York Islanders with nine games remaining. The Islanders lost to the Boston Bruins 5-0 on Tuesday.
"We're in this position and we have to take care of business," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "You can't rely on other teams. We just have to try to win and go from there. So this is a good win for us."
[WATCH: All Capitals vs. Devils highlights]
Mackenzie Blackwood made 18 saves for the Devils (27-38-9), who are 2-8-1 in their past 11 games.
"They had 22 shots on goal but they had a lot of zone time, so you have to follow the play and be with it every step of the way," Blackwood said. "They could get no shots for 10 minutes, but you still have to do all that work and it could wear you down a bit."
Washington scored the first of three straight in the second period when Connolly got a tip-in at the right post at 5:57 for a 2-1 lead. It is the first time he scored 20 goals in nine NHL seasons.
"He's had a really strong season," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "Consistent, confident, playing his best hockey. It was just a matter of time before he was going to get 20. He's put himself in good spots to create, has an offensive mind, thinks offensively. He's got a good shot and a quick release. That is going to be key for us moving forward, to have scoring depth throughout our lineup."
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored at 12:16 for a 3-1 lead, and Tom Wilson scored from the left circle off a pass from Alex Ovechkin to make it 4-1 at 13:28.
Video: WSH@NJD: Kuznetsov goes five-hole on odd-man rush
"They think I am going to take a shot, and [Wilson] was in the right spot, the right position to shoot, and I give it to him," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin, who had no shots on goal in 18:26 of ice time, needs one goal to tie Brendan Shanahan for 13th in NHL history (656) and two goals to reach 50 in a season for the eighth time.
Andre Burakovsky gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead off a wrist shot from the left face-off circle 2:52 into the first period. Kenny Agostino scored his third goal in six games with one second remaining in the first period off a wrist shot from the point to tie it 1-1.
"We gave them three preventable goals in the second period," Devils defenseman Andy Greene said. "The Capitals have depth and they play a pretty direct game, and once you start giving them opportunities in your defensive zone, they start roaming and they start getting time and space and that's when you have to take it away and make plays a little sooner so they're not getting second and third opportunities. They were holding us out there for 45-50-second shifts in the D-zone."
They said it
"We just need to keep getting better. We have [the Tampa Bay Lightning] coming in tomorrow. They played us well in Tampa and I don't think we did ourselves any favors in (a 6-3 loss Saturday). It'll be good to get right back out there. We're getting closer to the playoffs. It's getting closer, and we are really excited about what we have here." -- Capitals forward Brett Connolly
"It doesn't matter that we're out of (the Stanley Cup Playoff race); this is very crucial for these young guys to learn. Washington is going to bring it and try and take our will away early and jump on us and then try and make us quit, but I think that's where you have to be self-motivated and make sure you're ready to go right from the hop. You're fighting for a job here. At the end of the day, that's what it comes down to. There's going to be changes made, so the question is, are you going to be part of the solution or part of the problem?" -- Devils captain Andy Greene
Need to know
Connolly scored 15 goals each of the past two seasons. ... Backstrom had an assist to give him 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past 11 games. ... Ovechkin has five points (two goals, three assists) in a four-game point streak. ... Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri was injured in a collision with Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen 4:35 into the first period. No update was given on Palmieri's condition.
Capitals: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN)
Devils: Host the Boston Bruins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, MSG, NESN, NHL.TV)
Video: Balanced attack leads Capitals past Devils, 4-1