NEWARK, N.J. | The Washington Capitals have proved they can win games without Alex Ovechkin, but they haven’t shown they can beat the New Jersey Devils with or without him.
Five straight goals by the Devils nullified a fast start for Washington, and the Caps were soundly defeated for the first time this season in a 5-2 loss Saturday night at Prudential Center. It was their third loss in as many tries against the Devils.
On Friday night the Minnesota Wild were a tired bunch, but Josh Harding kept his team close with some great goaltending. The Caps, playing their second game in as many nights, did not receive such an effort from Jose Theodore.
The Caps’ veteran netminder yielded five goals on the first 18 shots he faced. After a great start to the season, Theodore has stopped just 125 of 147 shots in his past six outings for an .850 save percentage.
After the Caps sprinted to a 2-0 lead, Martin Brodeur started playing like one of the best goalies of all time again and the Devils took control of the contest. Colin White cut Washington’s lead in half with a long wrist shot that glanced off Brian Pothier’s skate in front of Theodore at 9:47.
The second period proved to be a disaster for the Caps. Jamie Langenbrunner scored 19 seconds into a power play with a one-timer from the left point at 5:44.
Alexander Semin made an ill-advised pass attempt from the right wing toward the center of the ice with a couple of his teammates heading toward the bench for a change, and Travis Zajac intercepted the puck and ignited a two-on-none break that Zach Parise finished at 10:44 with his 10th goal of the year.
Matt Halischuk’s first NHL goal at 19:04 put an exclamation point on the middle period for the Devils. He took a cross-ice pass from Niclas Bergfors on a three-on-two and ripped a shot into the top right corner.
If the Caps were hoping for a surge coming out of the second intermission, it didn’t happen. New Jersey defenseman Cory Murphy’s shot from the right point off a faceoff beat Theodore 3:15 into the third.
The Caps struck on their first two shots of the game to open an early advantage. Brendan Morrison made a great play to keep the puck in offensive zone on a power play, then eventually fed Tomas Fleischmann for a shot from inside the right circle at 4:14.
Fleischmann now has seven goals and 10 points in nine games this season, and the Caps continue to click with the extra man. Washington has six power-play goals in the past fivewire games — all without Alex Ovechkin.
It was a two-tally advantage less than a minute later. Mike Green tried to shoot the puck from along the right wall, but it was blocked. It came right back to him, and he sent a pass to Mathieu Perreault near the top of the circles for a one-timer that beat Brodeur along the ice as he slid across his crease at 5:02.
Perreault now has two goals and five points in the first six games of his NHL career. He may still be in danger of being sent back to Hershey despite his strong play with Ovechkin close to returning (and Boyd Gordon back in the lineup Saturday night). Because Perreault is on his rookie contract, he would not have to clear waivers, in contrast with the other potential candidates to be sent down.