Devils' Dainius Zubrus raises his stick after scoring past Capitals' goalie Olaf Kolzig (37). THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Rich Schultz
NEWARK, N.J. - Vitaly Vishnevski and Dainius Zubrus scored 4:15 apart in the first period, and the New Jersey Devils won their ninth straight game by beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Friday night.
Travis Zajac added a goal in the third period, and Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for the Devils, who matched their third-best winning streak.
Alexander Semin and Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals, who have an NHL-worst 20 points. Washington, playing after five days off, lost its fourth in five games and failed to record 30 shots for the first time in 10. Olie Kolzig finished with 19 saves.
After honouring recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Scott Stevens in a pre-game ceremony, the Devils played the kind of shutdown defence he helped make popular - at least in New Jersey - during his 13 seasons there that produced three Stanley Cup titles.
Semin spoiled Brodeur's shutout bit to make it 2-1 at 5:48 of the third. Zajac pushed the lead back to two goals 41 seconds later, and Laich made it 3-2 with 1:17 left.
Now the Devils are two wins away from tying their best streak. They face the Rangers in New York on Sunday.
Unlike Wednesday's 4-3 overtime victory against Boston when New Jersey trailed 3-0 early, the Devils took control in the first period.
After the Capitals recorded four of the first five shots during the opening 10 minutes, the Devils showed why they have surged to first place in the Atlantic Division after a 7-10-2 start and how Washington has sunk to the bottom of the NHL standings.
Capitals defenceman Brian Pothier tried to clear the puck from deep in his zone, but it was intercepted by Vishnevski at the blue line. The Devils defenceman carried the puck into the right circle on his backhand and zipped a shot past Kolzig with 8:18 left.
It was his first of the season and first in 56 games, dating to last Dec. 27 while with Atlanta.
The Devils stretched the advantage to 2-0 on Zubrus' power-play goal at 15:57, after Kolzig made a pad stop on Elias and was bailed out with a shot off the post, too.
Elias made one stick when he fired a shot from the right point that Brian Gionta deflected in front. Zubrus easily potted the rebound at the right post for his sixth goal and first on the power play.
Of more importance was the return of captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who appeared to injure his shoulder when he was tripped up by Jeff Schultz on the play that created the advantage.
Schultz stuck his stick into Langenbrunner's skates at the goal line below the right circle and the Devils forward slid on his stomach into the boards - leading with his shoulder. He headed straight to the dressing room, but was back on the bench moments later.
New Jersey had a 12-5 shots edge in the period, then recorded only four in the second frame when Washington had eight on the strength of two power plays.
Brodeur made four saves while the Devils were short-handed in the period, including consecutive drives by Semin and Alex Ovechkin seconds apart about 5 minutes in.
Ovechkin played on a line with fellow Russians Semin and Viktor Kozlov, due to the absence of injured forward Michael Nylander, but continued to struggle against Brodeur and the Devils.
Second in the NHL with 20 goals, Ovechkin has only five points in nine career games versus New Jersey, his lowest total among Eastern Conference opponents.
Notes: Devils LW Jay Pandolfo (groin) missed his fourth game, and will likely be out at least two more. ... New Jersey was perfect on its five-game homestand. ... Washington captain Chris Clark (groin) sat out for the third time. Nylander missed his first of the season with an undisclosed injury. ... The Capitals recalled RW Joe Motzko from Hershey of the AHL. ... Vishnevski got his lone assist of the season on Oct. 31 against Tampa Bay. ... Stevens was selected by the Capitals in the first round of the 1982 draft and spent eight seasons with Washington.