PREVIEW: New Jersey Devils try again to stop Washington Capitals’ high-octane offense

By Field Level Media
Mar 25, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) shoots the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are a tough opponent for anyone when Alexander Ovechkin is rolling. They may be even more difficult when Evgeny Kuznetsov is heating up.

After four days off, the duo played major factors in Washington’s latest win. The Capitals hope to continue their hot streak Friday night when they host the New Jersey Devils for the second straight night.

The Capitals are 8-1-0 in the past nine games after Ovechkin and Kuznetsov combined for three goals Thursday in a 4-3 win. The one loss was to the New York Rangers, 3-1, on Saturday when the Capitals allowed the tiebreaking goal late in the third period.

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In the second period Thursday, Ovechkin scored his 721st career goal, and Kuznetsov subsequently recorded his first multi-goal game of the season.

“It’s always nice to get a couple of goals,” Kuznetsov said, “but at the end of the day, we got the points. That’s all the matters.”

Ovechkin has eight of his 15 goals during his past nine games, and Kuznetsov has scored three of his five goals this season in his past five contests. Kuznetsov, who missed eight games earlier this season due to COVID-19, also has nine points in eight games and is heating up after not skating for more than two weeks.

“It’s so hard to find (your) game, and it’s so easy to lose that game,” Kuznetsov said after getting the game-winning goal on a redirection. “I hope that we’re getting in the right direction where we’re understanding the system, we execute the plays that we want to make, how we want to play.”

The Capitals improved to 5-0-0 against the Devils this season, having won four of those games by one goal. Each of those victories occurred in a 13-2-1 tear since a 4-1 loss to the Rangers on Feb. 20.

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“It was really nice to see them all respond the way that they have,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said of Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov, who all missed games due to pandemic protocols. “All those players definitely got derailed a little bit, as other players have across the league. It’s just the season that we’re living in. Just coming out of it, they’re getting stronger and stronger.”

New Jersey is playing better of late. Despite Thursday’s outcome, he Devils are still 4-2-0 in their past six games. Before that stretch, they Devils endured a 2-10-2 skid.

On Thursday, the Devils got goals from Nicholas Merkley, Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt.

New Jersey also mustered 24 shots on goal, including outshooting Washington 11-4 in the opening 20 minutes.

The Devils fell behind for good a little over a minute after Bratt’s tying goal in the third, part of a pattern that saw them surrender goals within minutes after they scored each of their own.

“We’ve been pretty good at staying focused — (Thursday night) was a little different story,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “It just seemed that immediately after (a goal), you’re looking for momentum, you’re looking for a good shift. We didn’t get that, and it ended up in the back of our net.”

Wood added, “The most important shifts in the game are at the start of a period and after a goal. Those are two key points in a game. I felt like we came out flat after scoring, and it cost us a few times.”

–Field Level Media