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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Ilya Kovalchuk scored 4:39 into overtime, and the New Jersey Devils won their third straight game to start the lockout-shortened season, 3-2 over the winless Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kovalchuk took a pass from defenseman Marek Zidlicky low in the left circle and beat Michal Neuvirth, who was outstanding in overtime. Neuvirth made seven saves, most on a New Jersey power play.

Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored for New Jersey, which is off to its first 3-0 start since the 2002-03 season, the last time the Devils won the Stanley Cup.

Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green scored for Washington in the final 7:15 of regulation to force overtime. The Capitals (0-3-1) became the last NHL team to earn a point this season.

Neuvirth finished with 32 saves, stopping five shots after Green was called for interference in the opening minute of overtime.

Ribeiro had Washington's only shot against Martin Brodeur in the extra session, but it was a good one in close. Brodeur, who was within 7:15 of his 121st career shutout, made the save with his shoulder. The puck just missed the upper corner of the net.

Washington was seemingly out of the game trailing 2-0 until the Devils took a couple of penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, The Capitals took advantage despite playing their second game in two nights.

Ribeiro cut the deficit in half with a slam-dunk goal from the edge of the crease with the Capitals enjoying a two-man advantage.

Green, who was stopped on a great chance from between the circles in the opening minute, tied it with 2:56 left in the third period. Zidlicky failed to get the puck out of his zone, and Green beat Brodeur trough a screen with a shot from the right point for his first goal of the season.

Brodeur appeared headed for his second straight shutout since April 2010, but it wasn't to be.

Under new coach Adam Oates, the Capitals are off to their worst start since dropping six straight in the 1993-94 season. Washington recovered then and made the playoffs before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the second round.

The Devils didn't have a lot of chances against Neuvirth early, but made the most of the them.

Gionta gave the Devils the lead at 13:55 of the first period, just a second after an effective Capitals power play expired.

Defenseman Mark Fayne started the rush by poking the puck to Gionta at the blue line. He carried into center ice and made a cross-ice pass to Jacob Josefson. Before being sandwiched by defenseman Tomas Kundratek and Troy Brouwer, the Swede swept the puck to Gionta, who beat Neuvirth one-on-one for his second career regular-season goal.

Washington nearly tied the game on a power play with roughly eight minutes left in the second. Ovechkin, who was moved back to left wing from right wing before the game, was stopped on a blue-line blast. Brodeur then turned away a backhand rebound attempt by Joel Ward, who had the primary assist on Ribeiro's goal.

Elias stretched the Devils' lead to 2-0 with a minute left in the second period when New Jersey had a 5-on-3 advantage. A shot from the point by Zidlicky hit the skate of teammate David Clarkson in front, and Elias put the rebound into a wide-open net.

NOTES: Brodeur finished with 26 saves. ... The 3-0 start is the Devils' best since starting the 2002-03 season with the same record. They won the Stanley Cup that year.

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John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

John Tortorella has no answers, walks out of postgame press conference after Game 4

In each of the first three games of the series, the Columbus Blue Jackets always had an answer for the Washington Capitals.

The Caps built a two-goal lead in each game and Columbus was able to battle back and tie it each time.

In Game 4 on Thursday, however. the Blue Jackets had no answer in a 4-1 loss to Washington and that includes head coach John Tortorella.

"We weren't good," Tortorella said to the media after the game. "There's no sense asking me things about the game. I'm telling you, we laid an egg. I'm not going to break it down for you. We sucked. We sucked."

Tortorella is known for having some fiery interactions with the media. By his standard, Thursday's postgame presser was fairly tame.

The Capitals may have won Game 3, but Columbus certainly looked like the better team for most of the night. That was not the case in Game 4 as Washington dominated from start to finish. That led to the contentious postgame presser.

"We laid an egg," Tortorella said. "That's all I have to say, guys. I'm sorry, I'm not going to break it down for you. Nothing went well for us. It's on us, we have to figure it out and we will."

Reporters continued to press the head coach until he finally walked out.

Before you laugh too hard at this, it is important to consider that this may be a calculated move by Tortorella.

Sure, there have been times in which he has lost his temper in the past, but these outbursts may be more premeditated than we think.

Consider this. After their worst game of the series, a game in which the Blue Jackets only scored once and saw a 2-0 series lead evaporate in two games at home, we're talking about the head coach. We're not talking about the loss or the performance of the players. Instead, we are talking about Tortorella walking out on reporters.

Even if Tortorella was not willing to give any answers on Thursday, he will need to find some soon. The series now shifts back to Washington for Game 5 on Saturday with all the momentum on the Caps' side.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

The Caps put together their best performance of the series Thursday in a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 4 of their 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series.

The win pulled Washington even with Columbus in the series 2-2.

Here's how the Caps got the big win.

4 Reasons why the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in Game 4

1. Tom Wilson factors in the offense

Wilson’s hands are good for more than just punching.

He proved that again on Thursday as he scored the first goal for the second consecutive game. Chandler Stephenson and John Carlson provided the pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky. With Bobrovsky scrambling in the crease, Evgeny Kuznetsov passed the puck back to Wilson who fired the one-timer past the Columbus netminder.

In the first two games of the series, Wilson had no points and no shots. In the last two games, he has two goals and 13 shots on goal.

2. A great keep-in by John Carlson

We saw how dangerous it was when penalty killers fail to clear the puck in Game 1 when the Caps failed to clear in the third period leading to the game-tying power play goal.

In Game 4, the roles were reversed. Trying to kill off an Artemi Panarin penalty, Cam Atkinson attempted to clear the puck with the backhand. Carlson skillfully corralled the puck out of the air at the blue line to keep it in the zone.

The power play was able to reset and T.J. Oshie scored the rebound goal soon after.

3. Braden Holtby closes the door to finish the second period

After the Caps took the 2-0 lead, the Blue Jackets made a late push to try to pull one back.

In the last 10 minutes of the second period, Columbus had 13 shot attempts, five of which were not net. Several of those shots were high-quality opportunities, but Holtby came up with the big saves that the team was not getting earlier in the series.

His play ensured the Caps took the 2-0 lead to the locker room.

4. Alex Ovechkin extends the lead to three

Washington entered the third period up 2-0. In each of the first three games, the Caps held a two-goal lead and allowed the Blue Jackets to battle back and tie the score. Even with a two-goal lead, it still felt at the start of the third that the next goal would decide the game. If Columbus pulled within one and got the crowd back on their side, we have seen what that momentum can do for them.

This time, however, Ovechkin struck first. After a board battle behind the net, the puck trickled out to the faceoff circle. Ovechkin grabbed it and quickly snapped the puck past Bobrovsky before anyone could react.

The goal gave Washington their first three-goal lead of the series and shut the Blue Jackets’ comeback down before it could begin.

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