The back-to-back road games between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals provided a showdown between two of the best Russian forwards in the NHL: the Capitals Alex Ovechkin and the Devils Ilya Kovalchuk.
While Kovalchuk got the best of Washington in Thursday night’s win, Ovechkin responded today. The Capitals right wing recorded a season-high four points, including a hat trick, to lead the Capitals (6-10-1) to a 5-1 win over the Devils today at the Verizon Center.
Kovalchuk scored the lone goal for New Jersey (10-4-4), who fell to 1-1-1 in games that start at 1 p.m. or earlier. The loss also dropped the Devils to 2-2-1 in its last five games.
Ovechkin opened the scoring in the second period to give Washington the lead. Jason Chimera held the puck above the right circle, feeding the puck to Mike Ribeiro in the slot. The Capitals center held the puck, drawing in the defense before sending a pass to Ovechkin in the left circle. The Capitals right wing was all alone, and put a shot to the top of the net to beat Johan Hedberg for his sixth goal of the season.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the Devils lone goal, tying the game at one with under a minute remaining in the second period.
Andrei Loktionov deflected the puck into the Capitals zone, clearing space for Kovalchuk to pick up the loose puck in the point. His shot from the slot beat Braden Holtby to the stick side for his seventh goal of the season.
Washington exploded in the third period, scoring four goals to win its first game of the season against New Jersey.
Ovechkin broke the 1-1 tie just 1:23 into the final period. He skated into the Devils end, carrying the puck into the right circle. Ovechkin used Anton Volchenkov as a screen, firing a shot through the legs of the Devils defenseman and past the blocker of Hedberg for his second goal of the game.
Eric Fehr took advantage of a mistake by Hedberg, netting a shorthanded goal to extend Washington’s lead. The Devils goalie came out to play a loose puck behind the net, and didn’t see Fehr come off the bench. The Capitals forward stripped Hedberg of the puck, then curled around the net and put it into the empty net for his fourth goal of the season.
It was the first shorthanded goal New Jersey allowed this season.
Ovechkin completed the hat trick at 15:13 of the third period, netting a power-play goal. Ribeiro held the puck below the goal line before elevating a pass over the stick of Volchenkov to Ovechkin in the left circle. He fired a shot over Hedberg and into the net for a 4-1 lead.
Troy Brouwer pushed the lead to 5-1, scoring the Capitals second power-play goal of the period. Tomas Kundratek held the puck at the point before sending a pass to Ovechkin in the left circle. His slap pass found the stick of Brouwer, who tipped the puck past Hedberg for his eighth goal of the season.
In the two games against New Jersey, Washington scored four of its seven goals on the power-play. The Devils have allowed 12 power-play goals in the last nine games. They entered the game with the 22nd ranked penalty kill in the league.
Braden Holtby rebounded from Thursday’s loss, stopping 21 of 22 shots.
Hedberg has allowed five goals in back-to-back losses, making 21 saves in the loss.
New Jersey returns to the Prudential Sunday to face the Winnipeg Jets to finish off a set of back-to-back games.
Ovechkin’s hat trick was his first since 2011. He entered today’s game with 30 points (10g, 20a) in 28 games against New Jersey.
Kovalchuk has points in seven of his last eight games.
Steve Bernier took the first penalty shot of his career in the second period. It was New Jersey’s first road penalty shot since January 14, 2012, when Patrik Elias was awarded one against the Winnipeg Jets.