- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Washington Capitals are turning into the perfect cure for struggling teams.

For the second night in a row the Caps faced a team that was having a tough time mounting any kind of attack and for the second night in a row the Caps were turned into cannon fodder.

The New Jersey Devils snapped a three-game losing streak and scored their most goals in more than a month by scorching Washington 7-2 at Continental Airlines Arena last night.

Tuesday night at MCI Center Washington had a two-goal lead with eight minutes left in regulation and lost to Boston in overtime. The Bruins, Devils and Caps are all grouped in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference.

The Caps might have lost more than the game. Backup goalie Brent Johnson started but had a groin injury in the second period and had to be replaced by normal starter Olie Kolzig, who took the brunt of the Devils attack and absorbed the loss. The extent of Johnson’s injury was not known.

New Jersey’s problems are on and off the ice. Their coach, Larry Robinson, resigned for health reasons little more than a week ago; their star forward, Patrik Elias, has been out with an injury all season; general manager Lou Lamoriello, who last coached at Providence College a few decades ago, is behind the bench trying to unsnarl a power play that had scored just four times in its last 103 tries before last night.

Last night the power play worked — as did just about everything else. The Devils had to kill only three penalties and the Caps scored once. Washington tried to kill 10 penalties and failed three times, actually a little better than its woeful average.

“Tonight we got some bounces and the puck went in,” Lamoriello said, adding that on other recent nights those same bounces didn’t go in and the Devils lost.

New Jersey, which was up 3-1 after two periods, last scored as many as seven goals on Nov.25 in an 8-2 victory at Tampa Bay.

“The first couple periods, we were in it,” Washington defenseman Jamie Heward said. “We had chances but we didn’t get any bounces. You can’t blame what happened tonight on a lack of effort for the majority of the game. It looks a lot worse than it is just because of the last part of the third period.”

The Devils scored three times within six minutes late in the third, aided by Washington’s march to the penalty box. The Caps had overlapping two-man disadvantages late in the game with another penalty waiting to be served.

“We are definitely expected to win but we had to do it the way we did it,” said winning goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 23 saves. “The way we did it was the thing everybody was happy about. It was not just skimming a victory out of a shootout or something like that. This was a good effort and it’s been a while since we had one like that.”

Washington got goals from Alex Ovechkin (the 22nd of his rookie year, his 42nd point) and Brian Sutherby. Mathieu Biron assisted on Ovechkin’s score to give him points in his last four games, a career high.

Notes — The Caps finally traded Stephen Peat, sending the right wing to Carolina in exchange for former Caps left wing Colin Forbes in basically a swap of enforcers. Peat will go straight from Hershey to the Hurricane’s AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., while Forbes goes from Lowell to Hershey. … If Johnson’s groin injury is bad enough, the Caps may have to summon a replacement from Hershey. Frederic Cassivi is the logical choice. … The Caps will practice at 11:15 a.m. today and tomorrow at the Bowie Ice Arena on Northview Drive off Collington Road while a broken cooling tower is repaired at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton. The repairs could take a few days or as long as three weeks if the required part is not readily available. … Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was the healthy scratch; left wing Jeff Friesen (groin), a former Devil, was the medical scratch.

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