Capitals Rout Devils in New Year’s Eve Matinee

Following their shootout victory on Thursday in DC, the Devils would look to get some momentum going with a sweep of a home-and-home series against the Caps. They met for a 1 PM tilt on New Year’s Eve at Prudential Center and the results were not exactly what New Jersey wanted.

Really, the game could be summed up in the power play efficiency, or lack of it, for the Devils. The Capitals beat a steady path to the penalty box all afternoon and the Devils could not convert on one power play they were given. They went 0-for-9 on the power play for the first time since October 7, 2006 (a season opening loss against the Dallas Stars) and it showed. They could not really get anything going, they did have good looks early, but were just unable to finish.

The dad’s trip continued as the player’s fathers were in attendance for the game, as they were in Washington on Thursday. They saw a team without Taylor Hall, who is still day-to-day (he did not make the trip down to Washington) and Vernon Fiddler – who is out three to four weeks with a lower body injury.

In net, the Devils decided to go back to Keith Kinkaid, who played a great game against the Caps on Thursday. He was not as sharp today, making just 20 saves on 26 Capitals shots. John MacLean, on the MSG pregame show, did stress that Cory Schneider is still the team’s number one, coach John Hynes just had to go with the hot hand going in. Washington countered with their backup Philipp Grubauer. He made 21 saves on just 23 Devils shots. Grubauer had great numbers coming into the game and they stayed that way or got better following his performance this afternoon.

The Devils would look to gain some ground in the standings on a Capitals team that currently stands in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Something to build on was that the Caps swept last year’s season series. That will not be possible this year, as New Jersey already has a victory under their belts against the perennial conference powerhouses. The Devils were also trying to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since early December.

Washington’s Brett Connolly got the scoring off to a start when he notched his fourth from Andre Burakovsky and Brooks Orpik. Just 2:36 into the game, it was 1-0 Capitals.

Then a scary moment as Washington’s Tom Wilson finished his check while the Devils’ John Moore had his back turned. Moore’s head banged off of the glass and he went down in a heap at the 16:50 mark of the first. He was stretchered out but was responsive to the attending doctors, according to MSG’s Deb Placey.

The Devils did respond to what could be defined as a dirty hit when Devante Smith-Pelly and Connolly had a brief scrap. DSP ended up drawing a roughing minor while Connolly took a double minor for roughing, putting the Devils on their first power play of the afternoon.

But Washington would strike with 19:01 gone by in the first period, doubling their lead. The Devils again gave up a goal with two minutes or less in a period. Jay Beagle got this one, tipping a quick wrister from Orpik from the point by Kinkaid. Daniel Winnik had the secondary assist on that goal. The Devils coaching staff briefly thought about challenging for a high stick, but the replay showed it was a good goal, as confirmed by Toronto.

Moments later, the Caps’ Lars Eller was called for goalie interference, meaning the Devils would begin the second period with a power play on a fresh sheet of ice.

The Caps killed that off, but would go down a man again at the 5:01 mark when Justin Williams was called for tripping. That would kick off a strange sequence of events that would actually lead to the Devils’ first goal of the day. Six seconds after that penalty was called, Travis Zajac was nabbed for interference in a questionable, at best, call. It was now 4-on-4. Then, at 5:54 gone by, Dmitry Orlov was also whistled for interference, giving the Devils a 4-on-3 advantage. Four seconds after that, PA Parenteau slashed John Carlson’s stick, breaking it and going off for two minutes. It was now 3-on-3. During the 3-on-3, Kyle Palmieri walked right in on a partial breakaway and beat Grubauer, making the score 2-1. The goal was technically at even strength, and with expiring penalties, Washington would have two brief power plays on that whole sequence. Although they would not score on either and, in fact, went 0-for-3 on the day with the extra man.

The Devils thought maybe they had taken the momentum back with Palmieri’s goal, but Washington answered right back. First, TJ Oshie scored at the 11:05 mark, from Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. That made it 3-1, a good omen for the Caps, since they are 18-0 this season when scoring at least three goals.

But 33 seconds after the Oshie goal, Ovechkin found the back of the net to make it 3-1. He got assists from Matt Niskanen and Oshie. That goal was Ovechkin’s 17th of the season which he scored as the puck bounced off of the end boards and came right to him, allowing him to bury it. From there the Caps began to roll. Justin Williams added one at the 16:34 mark from Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov to make it 4-1. Niskanen took a shot that was tipped in by Williams in front of Kinkaid.

From there, the Devils tried to get things under control starting when Luke Gazdic and Wilson went at it in a spirited fight. Wilson knew he would have to answer for the hit on Moore and he did. That bout came at 19:23 of the second period.

For the Devils, this was the 13th time in the first 37 games of the season that their opponent had scored three or more unanswered against them. They would break that up when Beau Bennett scored at the 14:52 mark of the third period. The goal came when Ben Lovejoy fired a one-timer from the point and it was tipped in by Bennett. Jon Merrill had his first assist of the year on that goal, as he picked up the secondary. That made it 5-2.

But as was the story of the afternoon, the Capitals answered right back. At 15:27, Marcus Johansson made it 6-2 when he scored from Williams and Evgeny Kuznetsov. It was the first time all season that New Jersey has let in six in one game.

The Caps would finish the game on the power play when Parenteau took another slashing call. That was added to the five for fighting that he and Winnik took as they had a little scrap with about 2:30 left in the game.

When the final horn sounded, Washington had come away with the 6-2 win. The Devils will want to shake this one off as soon as possible because next up, the Boston Bruins come to town on Monday. The Devils had played relatively well at the Rock, this stinker aside, and they will want to get back on track with a better outing against Boston on January 2.

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