WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New Jersey Devils didn’t play a perfect game by any standards, but when it came down to the wire, they got the job done.
It’s the Devils second win in as many games over the Capitals this season after a 3-2 overtime win in New Jersey on Jan. 25.
Following a scoreless opening period, Mathieu Perreault put in a rebound after Troy Brouwer was denied by Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur to give Washington the 1-0 lead midway through the second period.
New Jersey answered quickly, when Adam Henrique led a persistent forecheck and eventually threw a pass across the crease where Patrik Elias was waiting to bang it past Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby to even the game at one.
Washington came back with a quick goal of its own, however, as Mike Ribeiro slipped a wrist shot past Brodeur late in the second period to put the Capitals back on top, 2-1, and set up the Devils’ comeback.
The win didn’t come without controversy, though. Kovalchuk’s game-winning-goal in the third period came on a five-on-three advantage, after Washington forward Tom Poti was called for a questionable interference penalty.
Later, with the Devils clinging to a 3-2 lead in the final stages of the game, defensemen Bryce Salvador lifted a puck out of play from the defensive zone, but wasn’t whistled for delay-of-game, as officials said that the puck landed in the Capitals’ bench.
In all, the Capitals were nailed for seven penalties in the third period. The Devils were only handed one — a harmless cross-checking penalty on defensemen Adam Larsson, which was coincidental with Nicklas Backstrom‘s penalty for boarding.
Brodeur finished with 17 saves for the Devils. Holtby, who was much busier, compiled a 34-save night for Washington.
The win moves the Devils officially into first place in the Atlantic Division, moving two points ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins. New Jersey will remain in the nation’s capital for the next few days as they will play the Capitals again on Saturday at noon.