Capitals look to complete regular-season sweep of Devils

NHL Hockey

The Washington Capitals returned to form Friday night against an opponent with whom they are well acquainted. The result was far too familiar for the New Jersey Devils, who are down to their last chance this season to earn a win over the Capitals.

The visiting Capitals will look to complete a sweep of the Devils on Sunday afternoon, when the East Division rivals are scheduled to finish a two-game series in Newark, N.J.

Some late dramatics helped the Capitals remain perfect against the Devils on Friday night, when Dmitry Orlov capped a chaotic overtime by scoring with 21 seconds left to lift Washington to a 2-1 win.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Capitals, who allowed their most goals in more than two years in an 8-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. It was the first time Washington surrendered eight goals since an 8-5 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 20, 2019.

“It was a good game by us,” Orlov said. “We needed that win. It was a great response after two losses, so we just have to build on that.”

The Capitals also took solace Friday in producing a sturdier defensive effort despite playing for the second time in 24 hours. Vitek Vanecek made 22 saves — including two game-saving stops in overtime — for Washington, which gave up 17 goals in the three games prior to Friday after surrendering just 19 goals in nine games from March 9 through March 26.

“I thought he was sharp all night,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “There were a couple breakdowns, but then Vitek was there to bail us out. When things aren’t going well, your goaltender always has the opportunity to settle things down and I thought he did that tonight.”

The win improved the Capitals to 7-0-0 this season against the Devils, which matches the franchise’s record for most wins without a loss in a single season against an opponent. Washington was also 7-0-0 against the New York Islanders in 1990-91.

While the Devils have garnered two points via overtime losses against the Capitals this season, the seven straight losses to an opponent in a single season tie the franchise mark, set three times earlier. New Jersey was 0-7-0 against the Islanders in both 1982-83 and 1983-84, and 0-7-0 against the Philadelphia Flyers in 1983-84.

The loss Friday marked the fifth time this season the Devils have fallen to the Capitals by one goal. New Jersey came tantalizingly close to snapping the skid in overtime, but Vanecek turned away a breakaway by Jack Hughes with 3:11 left and Travis Zajac ringed a shot off the right post just before Orlov’s goal.

“They’re one of those top-tier teams in the league,” Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood said of the Capitals, against whom he recorded 38 saves Friday night. “They’re a good team, they’re playing well. I think we had a good opportunity to win that one but, I mean, hockey sometimes does not go your way.”

–Field Level Media

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