Niskanen’s OT goal lifts Capitals past Devils

AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) _ On a quiet night for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Washington Capitals got rare goals from Matt Niskanen, Karl Alzner and Eric Fehr, along with 29 saves from Braden Holtby, to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime Thursday night.Defenseman Niskanen’s fourth goal of the season came 73 seconds into the extra period, off an assist from Alzner.Washington led 2-0, but the Devils got one goal on Travis Zajac’s short-handed score with a little more than five minutes left in the second period, then tied it on Steve Bernier’s goal with 29.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

Mike Cammalleri collected the puck along the boards and sent it to Scott Gomez, who found Bernier open near the crease.

Ovechkin entered leading the NHL in goals, Backstrom came in No. 1 in assists, and both were in the top five in points. But it was the secondary scoring that pulled out this one for Washington, which is seventh in the Eastern Conference and trying to make sure it holds onto a playoff berth.

Alzner ended a 23-game goal drought, while Fehr had only scored twice in the preceding 22 games.

The Devils have lost three consecutive games, scoring a total of three goals in that span.

New Jersey began the day 12th in the East and appears to be on its way to missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year and fourth time in the past five seasons.

The Devils’ offense has been a problem, and it didn’t help Thursday that a possible tying goal in the third period was waved off because a player was pushed into the net.

Late in the first period, Holtby blocked consecutive close-range shots from Zajac and Jordin Tootoo, and he set aside Bernier’s try on a 1-on-1 with 12 minutes left in the third.

The Capitals took the season series against the Devils 4-1.

Less than 3 minutes in, Alzner put Washington ahead during a 4-on-4, taking a cross-ice pass from Niskanen and sending a wrister from the left circle past Devils goalie Cory Schneider.

It was Alzner’s fifth goal of the season, and his first since Feb. 1.

About 1 1/2 minutes into the second period, Fehr’s unassisted shot from just inside the blue line _ aided by a screen from Tom Wilson _ found the net. That gave Fehr 19 goals this season.

During Washington’s first power play, New Jersey got within 2-1 on Zajac’s goal off a pass from Patrik Elias with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the second period. The score came all of 33 seconds after Devils defenseman Jon Merrill was sent to the penalty box.

NOTES: Devils LW Elias left in the opening minute after leaving some blood on the ice when he appeared to be accidentally hit in the face by a Capitals player. Elias soon was back in. — In the second period, Devils RW Bernier dropped to his knees after taking a big hit near center ice from Capitals D Brooks Orpik and was checked on the bench by team medical staff. Bernier returned later in the period. — Niskanen has four assists in his last four games. — Fehr’s goal total is his highest since a career-best 21 in 2009-10. — LW Jason Chimera played in his 400th game for the Capitals, the 36th player to reach that number with the team.

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