WASHINGTON (AP)—The Washington Capitals, who have lost more games than any NHL team, were coming off a 7-1 defeat the night before and were missing two of their top scorers.
Oh, and they were playing the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
To make things worse, the Capitals gave the Devils eight power-play chances in the first two periods and were trailing by a goal going into the third.
Given those odds, Thursday night’s 2-2 tie felt like a big-time win.
“After losing the way we did, a team can easily go south,” right wing Mike Grier said, “especially with what our record is. To come back and a play gutty game like that against the Stanley Cup champions, it’s big for us.”
The game was espeically huge for Grier, who scored his first goal since opening night and redeemed himself for a costly penalty in the ugly rout at Buffalo on Wednesday. Joel Kwiatkowski added the tying goal in the third period for the Capitals, who broke a three-game losing streak.
The Capitals (11-23-4-1) played without right wing Peter Bondra and center Dainius Zubrus, who are third and fourth on the team in goals. Zubrus will be sidelined two to four weeks with a broken bone in his right foot, struck by a slap shot in the first period against Buffalo. Bondra is day-to-day with a groin injury.
“We knew they were going to bounce back,” New Jersey coach Pat Burns said. “They had a good shellacking last night. We were ready that they were going to upbeat their game, and they did.”
Grant Marshall and Sergei Brylin scored power-play goals in the second period for the Devils, who dominated early while the Capitals piled up penalty minutes. Through two periods, the Devils had more power-play shots (17) than the Capitals had total shots (12).
The Devils failed to convert a pair of five-on-three chances in the first period, but two goals and some near misses on the power plays were enough to satisfy Burns.
“Power play is only an opportunity,” Burns said. “We hit the post. If that’s a quarter of an inch inside, it’s another goal.”
The Capitals roared back in the third period, outshooting the Devils 14-6. They tied it on Kwiatkowski’s power-play goal with 15:59 remaining.
The goal came after New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur made a nice save on Sergei Gonchar’s shot. Brodeur got most of Kwiatkowski’s follow-up from the right circle, but the puck trickled over the goal line.
Grier broke a 36-game dry streak in the first period when he picked the puck off the boards near the red line and started a two-on-one break with Bates Battaglia. Grier took a pass back from Battaglia, beat Brodeur with a shot, shook both fists and pounded the corner boards in celebration.
“It was a lot of relief,” Grier said.
The Capitals killed 41 seconds of a five-on-three power play in the first period and 59 seconds of a two-man disadvantage in the second, but the penalties finally caught up to them when Brian Sutherby drew four minutes for high-sticking.
Marshall tied it during the advantage, putting in a rebound with a wrist shot that banked favorably off the left post.
The Capitals recalled Sutherby and Darcy Verot from Portland of the AHL. C Colin Forbes was reassigned to Portland. Verot became the fifth Washington player to make his NHL debut this season. … The Capitals are 3-5-3under new coach Glen Hanlon.