PREVIEW: Washington Capitals look to continue mastery of New Jersey Devils

Feb 25, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) shoots during warmups in a warmup jersey observing Capitals Black History Night prior to their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are riding high on a sizzling 6-1-1 stretch, with three of those victories coming at the expense of the New Jersey Devils.

The Capitals aim to continue their mastery of the Devils on Tuesday when the teams reconvene in Washington, D.C.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Capitals, check out #ALLCAPS rumors, rankings, and news here.

Ilya Samsonov made 36 saves Sunday night in the Capitals’ 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The 24-year-old Russian was making his second start since returning from the NHL COVID-19 protocol list, with the first being a 19-save performance in a 3-2 victory over New Jersey on Feb. 28.

“I thought he played great for us,” defenseman John Carlson said of Samsonov. “There was plenty of big saves that he made throughout the game when I thought we were working real hard, working good and kind of bringing it to them. They would turn it around with one or two chances here or there, and he was huge down the stretch for us.”

Samsonov sports a 3-0-1 record with a 2.53 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in four career meetings with the Devils.

Captain Alex Ovechkin scored his eighth goal of the season and 714th career on Sunday to move within four of passing Hall of Famer Phil Esposito for sole possession of sixth place in NHL history.

Ovechkin has tallied twice against New Jersey this season, boosting his totals to 32 goals and 66 points in 60 career encounters with the Devils.

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Defenseman Dmitry Orlov scored with 16 seconds remaining in the second period on Sunday and Nick Jensen added a third-period goal to help Washington complete a 4-1-0 road trip.

“It was huge,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “We talked about (going) 4-1 when you’ve got all division games — you’ve got Philadelphia, you’ve got Boston twice and New Jersey is a quick, young team. But you’re on the road and you want to win hockey games and head home.

“(Sunday) was the swing game for me, between it being a good trip or a great trip. It ends up tilting toward the great side, so you take the points and go home and get ready for the next one.”

The Devils also are likely feeling better about themselves after snapping a five-game losing skid Sunday with a 1-0 win over the Boston Bruins.

Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal since Feb. 20 after redirecting a shot from Pavel Zacha with 4:37 remaining in the third period.

“It feels awesome,” Palmieri said on Sunday. “After this past week, we took the opportunity this morning to really examine our game individually and as a team.”

He said Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers prompted the reflection.

“Sometimes there’s games over that homestand where we played well and deserved a better or closer result,” he said, “but the (Saturday) game was a bit of a low point for us as a whole.”

Zacha has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in his last 17 games, including three (one goal, two assists) in the three losses to Washington.

Scott Wedgewood turned aside all 40 Boston shots he faced on Sunday while making a spot start for the Devils, who likely will turn back to Mackenzie Blackwood on Tuesday.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Devils, check out #NJDevils rumors, rankings, and news here.

Blackwood, who yielded five goals on 27 shots against the Rangers on Saturday, permitted seven tallies on 46 shots in consecutive losses to Washington on Feb. 27-28.

The 24-year-old owns a 1-5-0 record with a 3.48 goals-against average and .878 save percentage in six career meetings with the Capitals.

–Field Level Media