NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Brett Connolly sparked a three-goal second period and the Washington Capitals moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson also scored in the second as the defending Stanley Cup champions won for the 10th time in 13 games. Andre Burakovsky got the other goal and backup goalie Pheonix Copley made 20 saves in winning his sixth straight since the All-Star break.
Washington started the day tied with the Islanders for first place in the division, but it took over with the win and New York’s 5-0 loss to Boston. The Capitals and Islanders each have nine games left in the regular season.
Kenny Agostino scored for the third time in five games for New Jersey. MacKenzie Blackwood made 18 saves as the Devils lost to the Capitals for the third time in four meetings this season.
Connolly snapped a 1-all tie at 5:57 of the middle period, redirecting Christian Djoss’ cross-ice pass into an open net for his career-best 20th goal. He has 11 since Feb. 1, tying Alex Ovechkin for the team lead.
Kuznetsov gave Washington a two-goal lead at 12:16, beating Blackwood on a 2-on-1 break for his 19th goal.
Wilson got his 21st a little more than a minute later with the help of Blackwood. After taking a cross-ice pass from Ovechkin, Wilson took a shot from the left circle that appeared to be going wide of the net, but it hit off the rookie goaltender’s pad and took a left turn into the net.
Nicklas Backstrom got his 50th assist on the play. The Swede is the only NHL player with 50 assists in each of the last six seasons.
New Jersey had tied the game with a second left in the first period when Agostino took advantage of a Washington turnover and beat Copley with a low shot to the corner of the net.
Burakovsky opened the scoring at 2:52 of the first with a perfect shot from the left circle to the upper corner of the net.
The Capitals gave 38-year-old defenseman Brooks Orpik his first night off since Feb. 1. Djoos replaced him after sitting out the previous 10 games.
Devils leading goal scorer Kyle Palmieri was hurt in the first period and did not return. Washington has not lost consecutive games since Jan. 22-23.
Referee Jake Brenk was shaken up in the third period when a Capitals player crashed into his right knee. The Capitals are 16-6-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents. They have earned a point against New Jersey in 14 of 15 games (12-1-2).
The Devils host the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
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