- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2006

The New Jersey Devils have won three Stanley Cups since 1995 with patience and opportunistic play. They showed those traits again last night, even after the Washington Capitals had a two-goal advantage.

In a game New Jersey eventually won 4-3 in a shootout, the Caps scored the tying goal in the final minute of the third period on a 6-on-4. The veteran New Jersey club shrugged off the goal and went on to win anyway at Verizon Center.

“We need to be able to put a team away,” Caps forward Jeff Halpern told the Associated Press. “We weren’t able to do that, but we were able to get a late goal. Two breakdowns and a couple of penalties in the first, other than that, we played pretty well.”

Left wing Sergei Brylin, the fifth Devils shooter, scored in the sudden death portion of the tie-breaking shootout. Then, Martin Brodeur stopped a shot from the Caps’ Ben Clymer to close out the New Jersey victory.

Brian Willsie and Brooks Laich scored for Washington in the shootout but it was Brylin who had the goal that mattered, breaking the final tie of the night.

Brodeur also made a shootout stop on Alex Ovechkin, who was held scoreless for the first time in eight games. He had at least one goal in his previous seven games, breaking his own rookie club record, netting 13 points in those games.

The Devils last night guarded him closely with swift and shifty skating. He was held without a single shot on goal during the first two periods on a night in which he needed only one goal to move into a tie with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL goal-scoring lead. That goal never came.

Scott Gomez broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period with his second goal of the game but Dainius Zubrus tied it with 34 seconds left, with one of the assists going to Halpern for his 200th NHL point.

The two teams split the first period down the middle, the Caps excelling in the first 10 minutes, the Devils for the second half.

Matt Pettinger opened the scoring for Washington 3:59 into the game by ripping a shot past Brodeur before he could react. Brian Willsie started the play with a nice drop pass to a trailing Halpern, who spotted Pettinger on the other side of the ice. He fired a quick pass in that direction and the left wing one-timed it for his 16th of the season. Pettinger had just 14 goals total in his career before this season.

Four minutes later, the Caps caught Brodeur with no stick and took advantage. Laich passed back to Jamie Heward, who passed to his defensive partner, Bryan Muir. The recently re-signed defenseman wound up and fired into a crowd; Brodeur knew it was coming but could do nothing. It was Muir’s third goal in the past three games.

For the first 10 minutes the Caps were nearly faultless with good defense, sharp and crisp passing and efficient line changes. But the Devils, masters of the waiting game, slowly shifted into overdrive while Washington slowed.

New Jersey was credited with a goal at 13:05 of the first when Brian Gionta shot from the top of the right circle. Shaone Morrisonn was trying to block out in front of goalie Olie Kolzig but Gionta’s shot nicked his stick, changed direction just enough to elude Kolzig and it was in the net. It was Gionta’s 35th.

The Devils tied the game six seconds before the end of the period with the Caps trying to kill a two-man disadvantage. With time winding down, Gomez took the puck and lazily strolled to the deep slot and slapped a shot down the left side.

Notes — An “A”mazing Auction Night to benefit Kolzig’s favorite charity, Athletes Against Autism, will follow tomorrow’s matinee game against Ottawa. Tickets, at $100 each, can be ordered on WashingtonCaps.com. … Heward returned from his upper body injury last night, meaning the Caps played their first game of the season with nobody sitting out with an injury. The Caps have lost 150 man-games to injury thus far.

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