- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Entering yesterday’s game at Continental Airlines Arena, the Washington Capitals were a team that was reeling — compiling a 2-5-3 record in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils had won eight of 10 contests and were coming off of a home-and-home sweep of the archrival New York Rangers.

Yet, it was the Caps who looked energized in a 4-2 win — their first in New Jersey in nearly five years. Washington had lost seven in a row in East Rutherford and last won on the road against the Devils on March 29, 2002. It was also the Caps’ first win against the Devils in three tries this season.

“We knew what they were going to do,” Caps goalie Brent Johnson said. “They’re going to play a patient game and wait for their chances. So [we wanted to] negate the mistakes and that’s what we did.”

The Caps (24-28-10) jumped on the Devils (38-18-6) from the get-go, taking a 1-0 lead on Milan Jurcina’s wrist shot past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur at 8:43 of the first period. Jurcina received a pass from Semin, who had spun away from a New Jersey defender along the board, and fired a shot that looked like it deflected off Devils’ defenseman Brad Lukowich. The goal was Jurcina’s third of the season, and his first as a Capital.

Initially, the goal was given to Alex Ovechkin, who had set up a screen in front of Brodeur. However, the replay showed that the puck did deflect off Lukowich.

“I didn’t have time for a slapper, so I just wristed it on net,” Jurcina said.

Alexander Semin’s 32nd goal put the Caps up 2-0 at 2:18 of the second. A little more than two minutes later, Matt Pettinger’s 14th goal of the year, a short-handed marker, gave Washington a 3-0 advantage. With Semin in the penalty box for hooking — he committed two hooking penalties during the game — Boyd Gordon picked off a pass from Jamie Langenbrunner and fired it off the boards, springing Pettinger for a breakaway. The left wing backhanded the puck past Brodeur.

It was Pettinger’s third short-handed goal of the year, putting him two behind league leader Jordan Staal of the Penguins.

Early the third period, Caps rookie center Tomas Fleischmann scored his first NHL goal on a breakaway, flipping the puck over a diving Brodeur for a 4-1 lead. Dainius Zubrus collected the puck afterward, giving it to team personnel to hold onto until they could give it to the rookie.

After the game, Fleischmann grinned as he held the puck aloft.

“It felt pretty good,” Fleischmann said. “I didn’t expect to go in on a breakaway. I saw him coming; he wanted to jump under my legs and I went on the backhand and it worked.”

Following Fleischmann’s goal, there was a noticeable increase in the Devils’ effort. New Jersey began shooting from all angles — the Devils outshot the Caps 14-7 in the third period and 31-30 overall — but was repeatedly turned away by Johnson, who made 29 saves. Throughout the afternoon, Johnson frustrated Devils’ shooters by squaring up to the puck.

“Even when we tried to scratch and claw our way back into the game late, their goaltender kept making saves and kept them in the game,” Devils coach Claude Julien said.

Cam Janssen and Jay Pandolfo scored each of New Jersey’s goals. Janssen’s goal — which came at 10:33 in the second period — was his first of the season. Pandolfo scored at 14:02 in the third.

The Caps and Devils meet today for the final time this season at Verizon Center.

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