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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — That T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin powered the Washington Capitals to a victory came as no surprise.
If you look deeper, there were facets of the Capitals' 6-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday that were even more important.
Starting with the penalty-killers, who fended off nine New Jersey power plays.
Add in backup goalie Philipp Grubauer who gave Braden Holtby a day off, and turned in another winning effort. Grubauer made 21 saves, improving his record to 6-1-1.
"Our penalty-kill was outstanding tonight," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We got momentum off it. When the game was in doubt, the penalty-killers held strong, got it done. As soon as we killed off those back-to-back penalties, we scored a goal and then we scored another. I thought the penalty-kill was the big difference and Gruby made some key saves when the game was tight."
Trotz was referring to the penalty-filled second period where the Devils' Kyle Palmieri scored a 3-on-3 goal to cut Washington's lead to 2-1.
When Washington finally got back to even strength, Oshie and Ovechkin connected 33 seconds apart and the Capitals were on their way to a split of the home-and-home series.
The Devils stunned the Capitals with a 2-1 shootout victory on Thursday in Washington.
This one was all Capitals, with six players scoring goals. Brett Connolly, Jay Beagle, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson also scored as Washington snapped a two-game losing streak.
That's the way Trotz envisions the team having success.
"We haven't scored at the rate we think we should," he said. "Having a game like that can only help our confidence. We had good balance. We didn't give up many chances 5-on-5. That's where we want to be as a team, where your offense piggybacks on your defense. It did today."
It helps to have a solid backup goalie step in and spell the starter.
"I've got to win games in order to play," Grubauer said. "We've got a busy, busy month coming up for us. I hope to get to play. Every time the coach calls me, I've got to be ready to go."
Meanwhile, the Devils are going in the wrong direction.
Beau Bennett also scored for New Jersey, winners of only two of their last 12 games (2-9-1). Keith Kinkaid stopped 20 shots.
Connolly and Beagle scored on deflections early and late in the first period, putting Washington up 2-0. Connolly, wide open in the slot, took a backhand pass from Andre Burakovsky and tipped the puck past Kinkaid at 2:36. Beagle struck with 58.9 seconds remaining, directing home Brooks Orpik's point shot.
Washington was efficient in the opening period, getting the goals on only seven shots. And they gave the Devils plenty of opportunities, getting whistled for four minor penalties.
Even with that advantage, New Jersey mustered only five shots. The Devils also went down a defenseman when John Moore was removed from the ice on a stretcher after being checked into the boards behind the New Jersey net by Washington forward Tom Wilson early in the period.
After Palmieri's goal at 6:53, Washington scored the next three to close out the period, and put away the game.
Oshie netted a juicy rebound with Kinkaid sprawled on the ice at 11:05. Then a shot by Matt Niskanen bounced off the end boards and right to Ovechkin's stick. The sniper banked the puck off Kinkaid's leg for an easy goal. Williams upped the lead to 5-1 at 16:34.
In the third, Bennett scored at 14:52 to cut the Washington lead to 5-2 only to see Johansson answer for the Capitals 35 seconds later.
And so ended a frustrating afternoon for the Devils.
"It's a combination of things right now," Devils coach John Hynes said of the power-play failures. "It's a lack of execution. It's not making the right puck decisions at certain times. Our battle level, when we get into battles, has to be stronger. So, we have a bit of a perfect storm right now with the power play and we have to work our way out of it."
NOTES: Washington last played New Jersey on New Year's Eve in 1983, winning 3-2 with Mike Gartner notching the game-winner with 46 seconds remaining. ... LW Taylor Hall, the Devils second-leading scorer, missed a second straight game with a lower-body injury. The team says he is day to day. The other New Jersey scratches were D Yohann Auvitu and F Pavel Zacha. ... The Washington scratches were D Taylor Chorney and LW Jakub Vrana.
Capitals: Play Ottawa on Sunday night to start a three-game home stand.
Devils: Remain at home to host Boston on Monday night.
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