Holtby, Backstrom lead Capitals past Devils
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Speed, strength, talent and depth. The Washington Capitals had it all against the New Jersey Devils and it showed.
Braden Holtby made 21 saves, Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and an assist and Alex Ovechkin scored a highlight-reel goal as the Capitals continued to roll with a 4-0 victory on Saturday night.
''I think we're doing what we've wanted to do all season, but we're now finding a way to do it consistently,'' Holtby said after posting his second shutout of the season. ''We're using our speed and size to our advantage. There aren't a lot of teams who can match up with us there. We now know it's our strength.''
Washington has been playing to its strength lately and it is showing in the standings. The Capitals have points in eight straight games (6-0-2) to get right in the middle of the playoffs chase approaching the halfway point of the season.
''It's tough to get points in this league, so consistency is everything,'' said defenseman Mike Green, who opened the scoring in the second period. ''We've gotten points in the last eight games and that's good, but we're not in any position to sit back and relax.''
Holtby has been outstanding in the current run. He has started every game and is now 11-3-3 in his last 17 starts.
''He's really stepped up and saved us a lot of the time,'' said Backstrom, who has five goals and four assists in his last six games. ''That's what we really needed.''
Cory Schneider had 17 saves for the Devils, who again failed to win consecutive games for the first time since the middle of last month. New Jersey is now 3-8-4 in its last 15 games.
''If you are going to move up in the standings you have to go on a run,'' Schneider said. ''Every team seems to do it or has a streak where it gets them in the mix. It almost seems like for the last season and a half we've had trouble stringing together a hot streak. Again we can talk about it all we want but we just have to go out and do it.''
This was the fourth of five games between the teams and Washington is 3-1. Holtby has started all four, and his only loss was 1-0.
After a scoreless and listless first period, Green opened the scoring by ending an 18-game goal-scoring drought. Backstrom did most of the work by lugging the puck from behind the Devils' net to the blue line. He slid the puck to Jack Hillen and the little-used defenseman found Green for a ripping shot from above the right circle.
The Devils came close to tying the score just before Backstrom stretched the lead to 2-0.
Defenseman Peter Harrold floated a shot from the right point that landed in the crease. Travis Zajac and Steve Bernier tried to reach the loose puck but Backstrom helped clear and seconds later beat Schneider from the left circle after taking a drop pass from Jay Beagle.
Holtby maintained the two-goal lead by stopping Mike Sislo on a breakaway minutes later.
Ovechkin, who had two shots bang off goalposts earlier in the game, ended all doubt at 7:16 of the third period with his 15th goal. It was a beauty. He took a loose puck in front of the Washington bench, skated up the ice, deked around defense Jon Merrill while avoiding a hip check and backhanded a shot into the top of the net as he was going down.
''I was just making a move. It was a good play,'' Ovechkin said.
Schneider got a little revenge with 9:12 left in the game when he stoned Ovechkin on a penalty shot.
Backstrom closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal, his 10th of the season.
NOTES: The Devils called up D Adam Larsson and Sislo from Albany (AHL) earlier in the day. Only Sislo played, replacing slump-ridden Michael Ryder, who has not scored a goal in 20 games ...Hillen's assist on Green's goal was his first point of the season. ...Washington is 8-1-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents, and had three of next four games against teams from the division.