Postgame Thoughts: Capitals 5, Devils 1 (2/23/13)

Pat Pickens

Postgame Links: NHL.com recap

The Devils simply do not give Johan Hedberg help.

Hedberg fell to 2-2-1 this season, as New Jersey surrendered four third-period goals in its 5-1 loss to the Caps on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center.

Alex Ovechkin recorded a hat trick– his 11th career three-goal game– and Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer each scored third-period goalus as Washington improved to 6-10-1.

Ilya Kovalchuk potted New Jersey’s only goal– his second straight game with a goal. The Devils fell to 10-4-4.

New Jersey’s much-maligned penalty kill struggled against Saturday.

I’m tired of harping on it, but as long as it’s a story line, we have to bring it up. The Caps’ power play– which is second in the league, scoring at a 28.8 percent clip– added two more man-advantage goals in three tries Saturday. Washington was 4-for-7 against New Jersey in this two-game road-and-road stretch.

You can make the argument that the Devils have to stay out of the box, but penalties are inevitable. New Jersey’s got to kill them better.

Each of Ovechkin’s goals were vintage Ovi.

His first came off a stellar pass from Mike Ribeiro, which Ovechkin roofed past Hedberg, putting Washington ahead at 5:20 of the second.

On Ovechkin’s second, he fielded a great pass from Matt Hendricks, used Anton Volchenkov as a screen and snapped a shot by Hedberg. On his third, he one-timed Ribeiro’s pass into the yawning net to clinch the hat trick.

Ovechkin was Washington’s best player Thursday, — evidently his fiance Maria Kirilenko has been in attendance during both games which could explain his inspired play — and his game is clearly coming back. Southeast Conference beware.

Hedberg has now lost two consecutive Saturdays by identical 5-1 scores.

The games were eerily similar too: close affairs until late the late-middle stages of the game, then a barrage of goals– including a flurry on the power play– breaks the game open late.

Both games also even featured the opposing team’s marquee player record hat tricks.

New Jersey has now scored just nine goals in Hedberg’s five starts this year.

Hedberg was good, although his misplay did lead to Fehr’s back-breaking shorthanded goal. Hedberg drifted behind the net, then veered away from the puck,  expecting Andy Greene to pick it up, and Eric Fehr scooped up the loose change, making it 3-1 Caps.

New Jersey fell to 2-2-1 in afternoon games.

Both of New Jersey’s afternoon regulation losses were flat, 5-1 road losses. The Devils fell to 0-1-1 in afternoon contests this week.

It appears the Devils prefer to play at night, which is good because the Devils have only two more afternoon games on the schedule the rest of the year.

Andrei Loktionov looked like New Jersey’s best player.

The fourth-line center assisted on Kovalchuk’s goal and was one of the few plus-Devils registering a plus-1 rating.

Loktionov also spent some time centering the Devils’ top line, subbing for the slumping Travis Zajac.

The game did turn in the second period when Braden Holtby made his biggest save.

After Tom Poti hauled down Steve Bernier, Bernier was awarded a penalty shot. Holtby dropped his right pad, stopping Bernier’s five-hole attempt, keeping Washington ahead 1-0.

The Devils were on a power play at the time, and if the penalty shot was not called, New Jersey could have had a 5-on-3 advantage.

Instead, the Devils came up short. Sounds par for the course Saturday.

New Jersey will host Winnipeg for the first time this year, Sunday at 5 p.m.

I’ll be at the game. Follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Pat Pickens is a New Jersey native and lifelong Devils fan. Follow him on Twitter here.