The New Jersey Devils ended 2021 by winning a game in which they surrendered at least five goals for the first time in almost three years.
The Devils’ reward to open 2022: one of the league’s highest-scoring teams, led by an iconic goal-scorer fresh off adding to his Hall of Fame resume.
The Devils will look to extend their winning streak to three games Sunday when they visit the Washington Capitals.
Both teams were off Saturday after earning eventful wins on New Year’s Eve, when the host Devils squandered four one-goal leads in a matinee before beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 in overtime, while Alex Ovechkin’s latest milestone goal proved to be the game-winner as the visiting Capitals outlasted the Detroit Red Wings 3-1.
Jack Hughes scored with 2:05 left to cap a chaotic win for the Devils, who hadn’t won a game in which they gave up five goals since an 8-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 14, 2019.
On Friday, the Devils and Oilers combined to score five goals in the first 12 minutes. New Jersey didn’t trail until Edmonton scored twice in a 72-second span early in the third, but Yegor Sharangovich scored with 31.5 seconds left to force overtime before Hughes, who opened the scoring 1:38 into the game, collected the game-winner.
“It was a wild game, but at the end of the day we came up with the two points,” said assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, who served as acting head coach after Lindy Ruff was placed in COVID-19 protocol Friday morning. “We did a lot of good. There are some things, like any game, that you’d like to improve on. At the end of the day, I like the resiliency — up-down, up-down, lose the lead at the end and then come back. So it was a huge win.”
The Capitals’ resiliency — they fell behind 1-0 early in the second and didn’t tie the score until Evgeny Kuznetsov scored with 4:07 left in the period — was rewarded in historic fashion by Ovechkin, who scored the go-ahead goal just before a power play expired with 2:51 left in the third.
The power-play goal was the record-breaking 275th of Ovechkin’s career, snapping a tie with Dave Andreychuk for first on the all-time list.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “The league has been around for a long time, a lot of great players. To be part of that history is something special.”
Ovechkin inched closer to even more select company by scoring an insurance empty-net goal with 1:41 remaining. The goal was the 754th of his career, the fourth-highest total in NHL history and 140 shy of tying Wayne Gretzky’s record.
Ovechkin has surged past Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull on the all-time list this season and needs 12 goals to tie Jaromir Jagr for third place. Gordie Howe is second on the list at 801.
Ovechkin has 50 points this season, and he’s vaulted from 36th on the all-time points list to 25th with 1,370 points.
The resurgent season has helped spark a fast start by the Capitals, who entered Saturday tied for the NHL lead in points (47) with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington’s 116 goals entering Saturday ranked third, behind the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers.
–Field Level Media