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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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T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

300 games. 108 goals. 108 assists.

Just so you're tracking, those are T.J. Oshie's stats through 300 games as a member of the Washington Capitals.

In an outstanding 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, Oshie scored two power play goals. It was the second time in his career that Oshie recorded two such goals.

Another shot on goal — he had four in the game — would have put him at a nice-and-even 620 during his tenure with the Capitals, but hey, we can't all be perfect.

The statistical-evenness is certainly satisfying, but even if you're not a fan of quirky stats, the man has logged 216 points in 300 games. That's pretty darn good.

T.J. Oshie will seek to continue putting up great numbers as the Capitals embark on a two-week road trip. Their first stop will be Sunday in Chicago for a showdown against the Blackhawks.

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A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

It took six months of toil and effort for Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny to make it back to an NHL game. 

He last played March 20 when a torn hamstring in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning ended his season just a few weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs began. That was brutal. 

A spring to heal after surgery, a summer to rehab the injury and weeks getting back in hockey shape were the steep price paid. And then it took him all of 15 minutes to score his first goal on Friday in a game against the New York Rangers. Welcome back, Michal. 

“I felt pretty good, actually. My legs felt good,” Kempny said. “Obviously not an easy situation for me. But I got to say just thank you to all of the staff, whole organization, my teammates, my family, my friends who were supporting me all the way through here and help me. It means a lot to me.”

It was an organizational project. Kempny meant so much to Washington during its Stanley Cup run of 2018. The Capitals felt his absence on the top pair with John Carlson during the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Washington coach Todd Reirden credited team trainers Jason Servis and Mike Booi and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish with putting Kempny in position to return early in the season.  

“Six months of investment of their time to get him back,” Reirden said. “I thought Michal looked really good.”

The goal came at 15:16 of the first period and gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Kempny jumped onto a loose pucked batted around by teammate Alex Ovechkin, quickly corralled it and beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal. It was a pretty play and another indication that Capitals' defensemen are taking chances when they see them on the offensive end. 

In his first game back, Kempny had 14:24 of ice time. That’s about the goal the Capitals had in mind for him. He started on the third pair with fellow Czech Radko Gudas, but also played 3:42 with Carlson, who mobbed Kempny after his goal and gave him a celebratory facewash with his glove. They’re happy to have him back. 

“I just grab the puck and there was open net, so a little lucky for me,” Kempny said. “I was just excited.”

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