The Devils just can’t find a way to beat the Capitals.
Dmitry Orlov scored on a length-of-the-ice rush with 21 seconds left in overtime and the Washington Capitals beat New Jersey 2-1 Friday night at Prudential Center in Newark for their seventh straight win over the Devils this season.
Vitek Vanecek made three outstanding saves in the extra period, including a close-in redirection attempt by Travis Zajac seconds before Orlov skated up ice and ripped a shot over Mackenzie Blackwood.
“I think the D-man had a little touch on it, but it’s good,” said Orlov, who initially seemed surprised his shot went in and then shrugged his shoulders. “It goes in, it doesn’t matter.”
Blackwood said Orlov appeared to be aiming at his glove side and the puck went high on his blocker side.
“It’s a tough, tough deflection,” Blackwood said.
John Carlson scored for the third time in two days as the Capitals bounced back from an embarrassing loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday night. Vanecek finished with 22 saves in helping Washington move back into first place in the East Division, two points ahead of the Islanders and Penguins with 19 games left in the regular season.
Michael McLeod scored for New Jersey and Blackwood made 38 saves, including a stop on a breakaway by Conor Sheary in the opening seconds of overtime.
Vanecek also had a breakaway stop on Jack Hughes in overtime.
“Obviously, those are huge saves and those are behind-the-scenes saves that really lead to the goal that we scored,” Washington defenseman Nick Jensen said. “But he’s kind of like the Secret Service back there. When we score, he doesn’t get a lot of attention, but that’s a big part of why we win those overtime games because he’s making saves like that.”
A day after giving up eight goals to the Islanders, the Capitals were focused on defense. They limited New Jersey to 13 shots in the opening 40 minutes, but that was only good enough for a 1-all tie.
“I thought it was a really good game,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “You know, there’s games I think where we have a little bit more energy, but I think on the back-to-back situation, playing a young team that’s fast, I thought we played a really smart game.”
Carlson put Washington ahead at 8:22 of the second period, beating Blackwood for his 10th goal of the season. T.J. Oshie didn’t get an assist, but his attempt to tip the puck might have distracted the Devils goaltender.
New Jersey was totally outplayed in the second period, but McLeod tied the game at 12:53 when Vanecek left a long rebound right in front on Jesper Boqvist’s shot. It was McLeod’s third goal in six games.
The Devils seemingly are giving up on forward Nikita Gusev after one season.
A KHL veteran, Gusev had 13 goals and 31 assists in 66 games in the COVID-19 paused season. The 28-year-old had two goals and three assists in 20 games this season and has been a frequent healthy scratch by new coach Lindy Ruff.
Gusev, who will be a free agent after this season, cleared waivers Friday and was assigned to the team’s taxi squad. His cap hit of more than $4 million might have been the reason teams did not claim him. The NHL trade deadline is April 12.