A three-goal second period fueled the Capitals to a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, giving Washington back sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Goalie Pheonix Copley earned his sixth straight win with 20 saves while Brett Connolly became the fifth Cap this season to reach the 20-goal mark.
Here are four reasons Washington got the win.
Kyle Palmieri leaves early
The Devils were already without Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Pavel Zacha, Mirco Mueller and Sami Vatanen so they really could not afford to lose Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri took an inadvertent shoulder from Nick Jensen which dropped him. He was very slow to get back to the bench and did not return. He played only 1:18.
With the number of injuries the Devils have faced, Palmieri has been huge with 27 goals and 50 points, both team highs. Trying to beat the Caps without so many key players was already going to be a tall task. Adding Palmieri to that list was a real blow to the gut.
Andre Burakovsky stays hot
Burakovsky got Washington on the board early as he ripped a shot past MacKenzie Blackwood less than three minutes into the game. The Caps winger circled around the boards with the puck and New Jersey gave him some room to work with. He cut from the boards to the faceoff circle and fired the puck through the legs of defenseman Eric Tangradi. There was so much speed behind that shot that, Blackwood barely had enough time to react. The puck did hit him in the arm, but on the way out. The puck was hit so hard it bounced back out into Blackwood’s arm.
The goal is Burakovsky’s 12th of the season. He has scored five of those goals since Feb. 23.
Brett Connolly opens the flood gates
The box score does not look great for Blackwood, but he was doing all he could to keep the Devils in it. With the score tied at 1 at the start of the second period, Blackwood made a number of dazzling saves to preserve the tie, including stoning Jakub Vrana on a 2-on-1. His play made you wonder if a beaten up New Jersey team would somehow be able to steal away two points from the Caps, but Brett Connolly put fans’ fears to rest.
Christian Djoos, playing for the first time since Feb. 23, made a good play at the wall faking the pass to open up the lane, and fired the puck right to the tape of Connolly who tapped the puck in for his 20th goal of the season. This marks the first 20-goal season of Connolly’s career.
From that point, the Caps added two more goals in the second to take control. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 19th of the season about six minutes later and just over a minute after that Tom Wilson extended Washington’s lead to three.
About midway through the game, Todd Reirden switched centers on the top two lines with moving Nicklas Backstrom with Wilson and Alex Ovechkin and Kuznetsov down with Vrana and T.J. Oshie. The move had positive results for both lines.
Vrana tipped the puck up from the defensive zone to Kuznetsov who called his own number on the 2-on-1 and buried the puck through the 5-hole of Blackwood. Later in the second, Backstrom and Ovechkin both earned assists on Wilson’s 21st goal of the season.
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