NEWARK, N.J. | The Washington Capitals are going to struggle to win games without Alex Ovechkin if they continue to end up with more penalties in the offensive zone than goals.
New Jersey scored a pair of power-play goals in the final period, and Semyon Varlamov lost a regular-season game in regulation for the first time as the Caps fell 3-2 in their first contest without the two-time MVP at Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
Nineteen seconds after Alexander Semin was tagged with his second of three offensive-zone penalties on the evening, New Jersey’s Nicklas Bergfors gave the Devils the lead in the third period with a shot from the right faceoff circle.
Forty-four seconds after Brendan Morrison went to the box for hooking at the Devils end of the ice, Bergfors tipped in a shot from the right point to make it 3-1.
Tyler Sloan and call-up Mathieu Perreault teamed up for the lone goal of the first period. Captain Chris Clark kept the puck in the zone and connected with Perreault, who skated toward the middle of the ice before flipping a backhanded saucer pass to Sloan inside the left circle.
Sloan snapped a shot inside the near post that surprised Martin Brodeur and bounced back into play so quickly there were a couple of seconds of confusion before it was ruled a goal. It was only the second goal of Sloan’s career in 33 games and Perreault’s first NHL point — quite a feat considering the guy in net has more wins than any other netminder in league history.
A defenseman by trade, Sloan was playing forward for the Caps only because Ovechkin, Boyd Gordon (back) and Eric Fehr (ribs) were out of the lineup with injuries.
Brian Rolston brought the Devils even in the second period with a bit of a fluky tally. A few seconds after Jamie Langenbrunner helped keep New Jersey’s cycle going by knocking Shaone Morrisonn to the ice with a big check, Rolston had the puck behind the net and tried to center it.
Instead of reaching Langenbrunner, the puck glanced off Caps defenseman Mike Green and angled into the net just inside the far post.
Varlamov finished the night with 29 saves and his career regular-season record now stands at 9-1-1.