NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey Devils know the odds are against them as they chase a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their latest win preserved their chances.
Ryan Carter scored the tiebreaking goal with 4:54 remaining to lift the Devils to a 2-1 win over the Capitals on Friday night. New Jersey jumped ahead of Washington into 10th place in the East, just three points behind eighth-place Columbus with five games remaining.
“We gave ourselves a chance to stay relevant,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.
Tuomo Ruutu also scored for New Jersey, and Cory Schneider made 24 saves.
“It was the best win so far this season,” the Devils’ Jaromir Jagr said. “We showed up as a team.”
Alex Ovechkin scored for Washington, which lost its fifth straight. Jaroslav Halak stopped 29 shots.
On the game-winner, Carter was sprung by a leading pass from Marek Zidlicky, and he snapped a shot that eluded Halak.
“I saw the shot and it went in,” Halak said. “Simple (as that). I don’t make the save. To me it was an easy shot and I let it in.”
The Capitals lamented missed opportunities in the first 40 minutes that prevented them from taking control of a game that was up for grabs.
“It’s obviously difficult to swallow the loss. We played a good game, had a lot of Grade A chances (and) their goalie made some great saves,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “Two goals against on the road should be enough. We just (didn’t) score enough.”
Ovechkin opened the scoring 10:12 into the game with his 49th of the season. The sequence began with New Jersey defenseman Mark Fayne committing a defensive zone turnover. Nicklas Backstrom found the loose puck and moved it to Mikhail Grabovski, who passed it to Ovechkin for the quick shot.
The goal was Ovechkin’s first even-strength point since Feb. 27.
That was all the Capitals would get, as Schneider turned them away at every opportunity.
Schneider stuffed Jason Chimera on a breakaway with 1:28 left in the first, and kept the puck out of the net during a second period flurry in which Julien Brouillette and Backstrom had chances from along the crease.
“He made a good stop,” Chimera said. “If that goes in, it’s a 2-0 game.”
Oates added: “You have to give their goalie credit, he made some big saves. We had breakaways, we hit posts, we had a lot of great chances.”
Ruutu drew New Jersey even with 7:39 left in the second with a redirection of Eric Gelinas’ point shot. The goal was Ruutu’s eighth of the season, and his third with the Devils following the March 5 trade from the Carolina Hurricanes.
Both the New Jersey and Washington power-play units were ineffective. The Devils were 0 for 5 and Washington finished 0 for 3.
New Jersey lost Patrik Elias in the first period after he was ridden into a stanchion by Washington’s Tom Wilson. Elias, New Jersey’s second-leading scorer with 51 points, skated seven shifts totaling 3:36.
“You’re short guys and everyone is going and everyone is contributing and it’s a good way to win and hopefully we can build off of that,” Travis Zajac said.
Both teams have five games remaining this season, and essentially need to win out and hope Eastern Conference wild card-leading Detroit and Columbus and ninth-place Toronto lose their remaining games.
The Red Wings lead the Devils by six points, and the Blue Jackets are three ahead of New Jersey. Washington is another point back.
“Yeah, definitely,” Backstrom said when asked if he thought Washington had to run the table in order to qualify for the playoffs. “I think the best chance for us is to win every game.”
NOTES: Washington called up D Tyson Strachan from Hershey of the AHL on Friday morning. Strachan entered the game with 24 penalty minutes in 12 NHL games this season, and 56 penalty minutes in 57 AHL games. … New Jersey scratched Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, Tim Sestito, Bryce Salvador, Ryane Clowe and Jon Merril. John Erskine, Jack Hillen, Patrick Wey and Connor Carrick were the Capitals’ scratches. … The Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced right wing Joel Ward was their nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”