The New Jersey Devils are enjoying a rare stay in a road city, and it certainly isn't a bad time for a hockey team to visit to the nation's capital.
With the NHL-worst Washington Capitals still searching for answers, the Devils go for a second victory at the Verizon Center in three days and a sixth straight win in this series Saturday.
As a quirk of the post-lockout schedule, New Jersey (10-3-4) is playing a second consecutive road game against the same opponent in the regular season for the first time in team history.
The Devils struck twice in the third period to rally past Washington, getting Andrei Loktionov's first goal with the team a few minutes before Kovalchuk's decisive blast.
The duo's Russian countryman, Alex Ovechkin, went a third straight game without a point for the Capitals (5-10-1).
The two-time league MVP averaged more than a point per game in each of his first six NHL seasons, but he slipped below that pace in 2011-12 and has just 10 points in 16 games this season to rank fifth on his own team. His minus-8 rating is the worst on the Capitals.
Ovechkin also took one of seven Washington penalties in the third period Thursday, a big reason New Jersey had a 15-3 edge in shots on goal in the final 20 minutes. Opponents are 17 of 57 (29.8 percent) on the power play in the Capitals' 11 losses.
"It's frustrating and we talked about it," center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We have to be more disciplined. It's not good enough."
Elias also had a short-handed goal in the second, giving him a goal and an assist in each of his last three games versus Washington. Kovalchuk has scored the game-winner in both matchups this season, burying an overtime tally against the Capitals at home in a 3-2 win Jan. 25.
The Devils won the final three meetings last season - two in shootouts.
New Jersey was relieved to avoid a third straight defeat overall Thursday after scoring just one goal in each of its previous two contests. Martin Brodeur improved to 5-1-1 with a 1.84 goals-against average in his last seven starts.
Counterpart Braden Holtby made his fifth straight start, falling to 3-2-0 in that stretch. He has yielded three goals or more in three of his last four, but he's also faced at least 30 shots each time during that stretch.
First-year Capitals coach Adam Oates, a Devils assistant the last two seasons, said he's still seeing progress in implementing his system.
"Watching the tape over from (Thursday), we played the system good," Oates said. "We made mistakes, but most of the mistakes last night, some of the penalties, that's focus, discipline. ... I thought system-wise we're fine. We're totally fine.
"I think the guys are really adapting to it."
Washington has won three straight when defenseman Mike Green is in the lineup. The team ice time leader has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury and his status is unclear for Saturday.
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- Ilya Kovalchuk