Capitals 4, Devils 1

The Washington Capitals left no doubt that they can play with

the New Jersey Devils.

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each had a goal and two

assists to help Washington beat the Devils 4-1, giving the Capitals

a one-point lead in the overall NHL standings.

Washington has 54 points, one more than New Jersey, Pittsburgh,

Chicago and San Jose. Washington won its third straight and ended

New Jersey’s five-game winning streak.

The Capitals lost their first three games against the Devils

despite taking first-period leads in each. Washington took a 2-0

lead in this game and never let up.

“I think we played a complete game,” said Washington coach

Bruce Boudreau. “I thought it was a great effort on our

part.”

Rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth won his third straight start,

making 29 saves. The Capitals pressured Martin Brodeur all night,

outshooting the Devils 40-30.

Brodeur had a 36-12-4 record with a 2.11 goals-against average

versus Washington heading into the game. But the offensive pressure

and Neuvirth’s strong effort gave the Capitals their first win

against New Jersey this season.

“These guys had 40 shots on net,” Brodeur said. “They’re

explosive offensively. When you give that kind of a team that many

good scoring chances, with that talent, they’ll put the puck in the

net.”

The only goal Neuvirth allowed came on Rod Pelley’s shot that

deflected off Washington defenseman John Erskine’s pants and into

the net.

But the 21-year old goalie – playing in just his 10th NHL game –

couldn’t hide his delight at beating Brodeur.

“I’m feeling unbelievable right now,” Neuvirth said. “I just

beat the best goalie in the world, so it’s amazing. I used to watch

him on TV, so it was something special.”

Washington’s top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Alexander Semin

– who signed a one-year contract extension Saturday – also was

special. They combined for two goals, five assists and 14 shots and

finished plus-3.

It was Ovechkin’s third consecutive three-point night.

“We understand each other a lot, and you can see how we control

the puck in the offensive zone and we feel pretty good and nobody

can stop us,” Ovechkin said. “We have to continue playing.”

Washington center David Steckel also played well. He got an

assist and won 15 of 21 face-offs, including all eight of his

first-period draws, helping the Capitals maintain possession and

keep pressure on the Devils.

Ovechkin opened the scoring at 4:09 of the first period.

Backstrom won the draw and sent it back to Ovechkin, who scored

from the left circle.

The Capitals made it 2-0 on a fluke goal with 6:06 left in the

first period. Matt Bradley fired a shot that New Jersey’s Mike

Mottau appeared to deflect, and the puck was sailing over the net

when Brodeur reached high for it. But the puck hit his glove,

dropped to the ice and rolled in.

The Devils scored later in the period on Pelley’s goal. They

appeared to tie it early in the second period, but Jay Pandolfo’s

goal was waved off.

Backstrom gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead when he scored from in

front with 10:08 left in the period. Semin and Ovechkin assisted on

that goal. Ovechkin and Backstrom both earned assists on Mike

Green’s third-period goal that made it 4-1.

NOTES: Backstrom’s first-period assist was his 200th NHL point –

in just 202 games. … The Capitals lead the league with 49

first-period goals. … The Devils lost for only the third time on

the road this season.