WASHINGTON - It seemed like another mismatch. The New Jersey Devils, who hadn't lost in regulation in 11 games against the team with the fewest points in the NHL.
Instead, two unknowns led the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 win that snapped the Devils' point streak at 10 on Monday night. Jeff Schultz, who had just one goal in his first 59 NHL games, scored for the second straight game. Quintin Laing, stuck in hockey obscurity, netted his first overall.
Schultz and Laing are a great match for coach Bruce Boudreau, who knocked around the bushes for decades. Since Boudreau was promoted from the AHL's Hershey Bears to succeed Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22, the Capitals have improved - going 5-3-1.
One of those losses was last Friday against New Jersey, and Boudreau blistered his team for its slow start. On Monday, Boudreau joked about the suddenly crowded press room.
"It's getting ridiculous," he laughed.
Two of the players he coached in Hershey - Schultz and Laing - were suddenly stars. Boudreau was especially pleased for the 28-year-old Laing, playing just his eighth NHL game - his fifth with Washington.
"That's a guy who's toiled for most of his life (in) the low minors. To score the winning goal in an important game for us, that's a really cool thing," Boudreau said.
Laing scored the final goal for the Capitals on a rebound of John Erskine's shot at 18:08 of the second period to give them a 3-1 lead - and he has plans for the puck.
"I won't let it out of my sight," Laing said.
"It was kind of a harmless shot. ... I would have liked it to have been the insurance goal, but the game-winner I'll take."
Schultz, with whom he played at Hershey, is suddenly turning into a scorer.
"Evidently, but I never would have thought it," Boudreau said.
The Devils lost for the second consecutive night after winning nine straight. They earned one point Sunday during a 1-0 overtime defeat in New York against the Rangers. New Jersey hadn't been beaten in regulation since another 1-0 loss on Nov. 16 to the New York Islanders.
The Devils took a 1-0 lead when John Madden scored at 5:56 of the first period. He flicked the puck to the left of goalie Olie Kolzig for his eighth goal of the season. Brian Gionta sent a pass to Madden from behind the net.
With the Capitals on a power play, Nicklas Backstrom slickly maneuvered through two Devils defenders and scored the tying goal through the pads of Kevin Weekes, who started in goal for the first time since Nov. 12. Victor Kozlov sent a pass from just behind the net to Backstrom.
Schultz, who didn't have a goal in 38 games last season, fired a shot from the right circle that beat Weekes and gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead. Alex Ovechkin had an assist, giving him nine points (four goals and five assists) in five games.
Just 52 seconds into the third period, it appeared that New Jersey's Mike Mottau had scored, but after a review of several minutes, it was ruled that the puck had gone in the net off his skate.
"It just happened to hit my skate," Mottau said. "I didn't kick it."
New Jersey coach Brent Sutter wasn't pleased with the ruling.
"It's not the right call. It hit the other foot," Sutter said. "It didn't hit the foot that showed the kicking motion, and it's clear on the replay (Mottau) shoots the puck, it's a rebound, and it goes off the skate and goes back in.
"That's not why we lost. Our second period was brutal. We had 18 brutal players in the second period. They left our goalie hung out."
About 90 seconds later, Devils forward David Clarkson carried the puck from behind the net and tapped it past Kolzig to make it 3-2.