Jason Chimera was just doing his job on the Washington Capitals’ penalty-killing unit, but when he poked at the puck in the New Jersey Devils end early in the third period, Chimera thought it was time to take a chance.
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”When I poked it forward, I noticed I had a one-on-one, so I decided to go with it,” said Chimera, whose short-handed goal at 2:27 spurred the Capitals to a 3-1 win over the Devils on Friday night.
”It looked like I had a step on the defenseman (Mark Fayne) and I used my speed to get away,” said Chimera, who scored his fifth goal, first short-handed. ”It’s never easy going in on (goalie Martin) Brodeur, but I fired the shot and fortunately, it went in.”
With Mike Knuble in the penalty box for tripping, Chimera stole the puck, pushed it off the boards, and outskated two defensemen for the goal that gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead.
Marcus Johansson added an insurance tally eight minutes later.
The Capitals (10-4) snapped a two-game losing streak and broke a three-game winning run for the Devils (7-6-1). The teams will meet again Saturday night in Washington, and the Capitals will be looking for their sixth win in seven games over New Jersey.
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau knew how big Chimera’s play was.
”It was a great play by Jason and was a great momentum-turner,” Boudreau said. ”If you look through history, and I don’t want to go through the actual statistics, but when you score a short-handed goal in a close game, that team usually always wins.”
Devils coach Peter DeBoer tried to rationalize what happened on Chimera’s play.
”I think at that point we had overplayed some people and we had some tired people out there,” DeBoer said. ”We let up for a second and they got one in. We didn’t make too many mistakes out there, but they were able to capitalize on the ones we did.”
It marked the second straight game the Devils allowed a short-handed goal. What magnifies the problem is that the Devils, struggling mightily in the power play, went 0-for-5 with the advantage Friday.
”I think it’s a big problem,” DeBoer said. ”We’re all working and pushing for one, because the goals haven’t been coming easy. So you tend to push a little extra for that goal and you get burned by it. It’s obvious we have to find a way to get the power play going.”
Devils rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who turns 19 on Saturday, scored his first NHL goal in the first period to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead.
The Devils remained in front until Alex Ovechkin tied it with just under three minutes left in the second period. It was Ovechkin’s seventh goal of the season and 10th in 23 career games against New Jersey.
Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 shots for the Capitals in earning his eighth win. Brodeur made 17 saves.
After a relatively quiet first 10 minutes, the Devils grabbed the early lead.
Patrik Elias made a fine move to get the puck on goal, but it was kicked out to the right side. Larsson alertly skated in and unleashed a slap shot that Vokoun never had a chance to stop.
”I feel good for the kid that he got his first NHL goal,” DeBoer said.
The Devils did a good job of defending Ovechkin, but couldn’t completely shut him down. He was camped at the left post in the closing minutes of the second period and stuffed home a pass from Dennis Wideman for his seventh goal of the season. Nicklas Backstrom earned his NHL-leading 15th assist.
After Chimera’s go-ahead goal, the Devils had a few good scoring chances, the best being a wrist shot from in front by Elias that went over the net. David Clarkson also hit the post on a breakaway attempt.
”I thought we deserved to have a couple early on,” DeBoer said. ”That’s what happens when you don’t put a good team away. We let them hang around.”
Boudreau, frustrated by his team’s effort, went with only three lines throughout most of the second period and into the third.
”I thought a couple of guys weren’t going, so we had to change the lines around and shorten the bench a little to get a good group on the ice,” Boudreau said.
Boudreau was pleased with his perfect penalty-killers, who also generated a goal.
”I thought our penalty killing was great,” Boudreau said. ”They were committed to blocking shots and with that, they pay the price. They end up with ice packs on their body and smiles on their faces.”
Johansson put the game away with his slick backhanded shot after bringing Brodeur out of the crease.
”The Devils are always a tough test,” Chimera said. ”We always seem to get up for games with them.”
NOTES: Devils LW Ilya Kovalchuk missed his third straight game because of an undisclosed lower body injury. Kovalchuk, who skated on his own Thursday, was declared out of Saturday’s game, according to DeBoer. … Elias tracked the puck down after Larsson’s goal and secured it for the rookie. … DeBoer moved things around with his lines, trying to get second-year forward Nick Palmieri out of an early season funk. Palmieri has one goal and three assists in 13 games. He was placed on a line with rookie Adam Henrique and captain Zach Parise.