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Devils Cede Metropolitan Division Lead in 5-2 Loss to Capitals

Devils got outchanced and outscored by a better team against the Capitals. Ovechkin & Co were too much to handle in this one. We review here.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils did not get the redemptive performance they were hoping for after a disappointing loss to the Sabres Friday night. Instead they were handled decidedly by a Washington team that continues to be among the leagues best.

The Goals: In the first goal, Washington had possession, and rookie defender Christian Djoos threw a pretty unintimidating deke at Miles Wood, which caught him wrongfooted, enabling Djoos to get position to wraparound Schneider pretty easily. He centered the puck where Tom Wilson, who had been sprung open by Severson tripping over Brett Connolly in front of the net, one-timed it past Schneider.

The second goal was just absolutely beautiful passing from Washington. DSP passed to Djoos on the zone entry. Djoos dropped to Alex Ovechkin, who made the toughest pass -- a quick-sticked cross-icer to Backstrom who fed it back to Djoos right across the net mouth for the tap past a helpless Schneider.

The Devils would answer before the first bell with an excellent cross ice pass from Zajac to John Moore who made a sneaky Jeterian snap shot on a tough angle to the far side of the net. It was Moore’s 6th goal of the year and it put the Devils within 1.

In the 2nd period, the Pavel Zacha went off for two minutes for holding Djoos. The powerplay that would ensue was an onslaught from the Captials culminating in a perfect saucer pass from Backstrom over the stick of Sami Vatanen to Carlson who top-shelfed it past Cory.

The next Capitals goal was the exact same play as the 2nd one. Instead of Djoos dropping and finishing, it was fellow defender Matt Niskanen; and instead of Backstrom receiving the bullet Ovechkin pass, it was DSP.

The Devils had a brief sniff of competitiveness in the 3rd where a good streak of offense lead to a point shot from Marcus Johansson to Zajac who redirected it into the back of the net. It was the 2nd point of the day for Zajac, and Johansson’s first 2 points against his old team (he was held pointless in the October loss).

Then Backstrom hit an empty-netter to put in the dagger.

Some Goods: Zacha lead the team with 3 high-danger chances — no one else had more than 1. He also produced Miles Wood’s high danger chance with a pass from behind the net, and was 3rd on the team in possession (59.26%). He generated a lot, but nothing went for him. Conversely, Zajac and Mojo got some much-needed offensive production — each having a hand in both Devils goals.

A Bad: The Devils top line of Hall-Hischier-Bratt got annihilated. They drew the matchup against Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Smith-Pelley and they were demoralized. When all was said and done, they were on ice for 9 scoring chances against, and only 2 for. You’re simply not going to win games when your top line is hemorrhaging opportunities like that.

Capitals Players: Ovechkin had one of those games where he decides to dominate, though strangely he did it passing this time. Djoos also always seemed to be involved in the chances today. Carlson continued to be a workhorse for the Captials — logging 25+ minutes and 3 points en route to a 1st star of the game. The aforementioned other two Caps were deservedly 2nd and 3rd.

Final Thoughts: The Devils went on a 5-game winning streak, and followed it up with a two game losing streak in back-to-back days. That can sometimes feel deflating, but remember the Devils have two games in hand on the Caps and still lead the Met in point percentage. Gotta shake it off and get ready for the next game against a solid St. Louis Blues team on Tuesday the 2nd in our first game of 2018.

The Game Stats: The Game Summary | The Event Summary | The Play-by-Play Log | The Natural Stat-Trick Game Stats

The Opposition Opinion: For the Washington side of events, go check out Jason Rogers’s recap at Japers Rink. Highlights: