NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The Washington Capitals had the New Jersey Devils’ number last season, winning all eight games. Nothing seemingly has changed this season.
Daniel Sprong set up the Capitals’ first goal and scored on a second-period breakaway in one-sided 4-1 victory over the Devils on Thursday night.
“We’ve gotten good goaltending, offensively we put up some numbers, defensively we’re not allowing too many shots and our goalies are stopping the ones that they need to stop and we’ve been able to get some wins,” Washington coach Peter Laviolette said. “What’s been good about the start — probably just the fact we’re 3-0-1, just trying to get wins and move on.”
Anthony Mantha, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored as the Capitals handed New Jersey (2-1) its first loss of the season. Alex Ovechkin had his three-game goal streak snapped but had two assists.
Vitek Vanecek had 25 saves for Washington, losing his shutout bid on a power-play goal by Janne Kuokkanen with 6:42 to play.
Scott Wedgewood, who was in goal because Jonathan Bernier and Mackenzie Blackwood are sidelined, made 23 saves in his first start of the season.
The Capitals got two shots past Wedgewood in the opening 9:33. Sprong set up the first one at 4:14 with his persistence. Carrying the puck up the right wing to the lower circle, his initial centering pass was blocked behind the goal line. He retrieved the puck and found Mantha all alone in front for his second goal of the season.
Sprong said playing with the lead has helped.
“There’s a lot of good teams in this league and we’re a good team as well so it’s gonna be a challenge but we have four lines that are rolling, all six D’s are going and our goalies are playing great. Every game like that, we like our chance that we play like a team,” he said.
Orlov got his first goal after Wedgewood gave up a long rebound on a straight-on shot from Ovechkin. Orlov collected the puck, skated toward the middle of the ice and backhanded the puck high into the net.
Sprong pushed the lead to 3-0 midway through the second period, poking the puck past Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton at the blueline and skating the length of the ice before beating Wedgewood between the pads for his first goal.
Kuznetsov, who scored two goals in Washington’s win over Colorado on Tuesday, got his third in close after a Devils’ turnover. And Kuokkanen scored on a shot from the inner edge of the right circle.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff said his team didn’t compete hard enough and lost almost all the battle when they did.
“We probably had half our group play well and half that didn’t play so well,” he said. “When that happens, you’re not going to win. I talked to the group about the game. We’re not going to win if half our group shows up.”
The Devils put center Jack Hughes on the injured list earlier in the day. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 dislocated his left shoulder against Seattle on Tuesday. No time frame was given for his return. The team said surgery is not planned at this time.
NOTES: This was Washington’s only trip to the Prudential Center this season. The teams will play twice in Washington. In last year’s 56-game season, the Caps and Devils played eight times. … Vanecek has started three games and not given up a goal in the first two periods, stopping 43 shots. “I say guys are playing really good so they helped me a lot and I’m just focusing on the hockey. I feel it’s like normal,” Vanecek said.
Capitals: Home against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Devils: Play the fourth game of their homestand against Buffalo on Saturday night.
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