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PREVIEW: Capitals, Devils square off after Saturday losses

Jan 16, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) slashes New Jersey Devils left wing Miles Wood (44) in the first period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils will get to know each other quite well in a short amount of time, beginning with Sunday’s matinee in the nation’s capital.

The game, which was moved up five hours by the NHL to a start time of 2 p.m. ET, marks the first of three contests in eight days between the division rivals.

The Capitals likely will view the change as a positive, considering it will allow them less time to dwell on Saturday afternoon’s 4-1 setback to the New York Rangers. Washington has lost five of its last seven contests after starting the season with a nine-game point streak (6-0-3).

“We shot ourselves in the foot way too much today to get ourselves going, especially early on,” defenseman John Carlson said, via the Washington Post. “And throughout the game I didn’t like our response.”

Defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored late in the second period for his first point of the season.

Vitek Vanecek finished with 20 saves while making his 13th consecutive start for Washington. Ageless backup Craig Anderson, 39, or recovering Ilya Samsonov are other options in net for coach Peter Laviolette.

“I don’t think the goaltending was the problem (on Saturday). We didn’t generate enough,” Laviolette said. “Vitek gives us a chance to win hockey games. I thought he was good. We needed to be in the offensive zone a little bit more.”

The Devils, like the Capitals, also fell short in their Saturday matinee. New Jersey saw its three-game winning streak come to a halt following a 3-2 setback to the Buffalo Sabres.

After trailing 3-0 through two periods, Kyle Palmieri scored his third goal in two games and defenseman P.K. Subban also tallied in the third period for the Devils.

“We weren’t playing our game and doing the things that made us successful coming out of the break,” Palmieri said. “I thought the response in the third period was awesome, we pressed and had chances to tie the game.”

Former top overall pick and newly minted captain Nico Hischier made his season debut after sustaining an offseason lower-body injury. He registered one shot on goal in 16:29 of ice time.

“It feels great to be back on the ice and battling with the guys,” Hischier said. “When you look at the (third) period, that’s how we should be playing for three periods. We know it’s not enough … one period. but it gives us something for (Sunday).”

Travis Zajac also returned to the ice following a 19-day stint in NHL protocols. He will skate in his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday afternoon.

Zajac, 35, notched a pair of assists as the teams split four meetings last season. He has 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 50 career encounters with the Capitals.

Mackenzie Blackwood sustained his first regulation loss this season following his 26-save performance on Saturday. The 24-year-old owns a 1-3-0 record with a 3.43 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in four career meetings with Washington.

–Field Level Media