WASHINGTON -- The New Jersey Devils entered Thursday night's 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals with the ninth-ranked power play in the NHL.
They got plenty of practice on the man-advantage in the third period and finally cashed in on Ilya Kovalchuk's game-winning goal with 8 minutes, 20 seconds remaining in the game.
Kovalchuk's goal, which came on a blast from the point, completed 5:19 of power-play time for the Devils, who won for just the second time in five games.
"They blocked a lot of shots but our power play coach wants us to be a shooting power play," Kovalchuk said. "They kept blocking shots and the last one went through. So we'll take the two points."
Five consecutive penalties by the Capitals turned the third period into one big power play for the Devils and they eventually took advantage.
After failing on a 5-on-3 advantage, Andrei Loktionov tied the score with his first goal of the season 9:19 into the third period. The Caps followed by taking two more penalties, John Erskine for hooking and Tom Poti for interference -- to give the Devils their second 5-on-3 of the period.
Kovalchuk blasted his sixth goal of the season past Braden Holtby and Washington never recovered.
"We feel like we were robbed a little bit," said Capitals forward Troy Brouwer, who was slapped with a 10-minute misconduct at the end of the game. "Two points, one point, anything was taken away from us."
The two teams will complete the back-to-back series Saturday afternoon in Washington.
The win improved the struggling Devils to 10-3-4.
"We kept our composure," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "There was a little bit of frustration (on the power play) but we stuck with it and found a way. This group has been pretty good at that."
The Capitals (5-10-1) lost for the second straight time and remained in the Eastern Conference basement.
The Capitals owned a 2-1 lead after two periods but consecutive penalties to Matt Hendricks, Jay Beagle, Alex Ovechkin, Erskine and Poti led to their unraveling.
The Capitals killed off three straight penalties before Loktionov tied the score after beating Mike Ribeiro on a faceoff.
When Erskine and Poti took back-to-back penalties midway through the period, Kovalchuk stepped into a pass by Patrik Elias and drive it past Holtby for what proved to be the game-winner.
"You give them two 5-on-3s in one period and that's obviously too much," said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who served as an assistant under DeBoer last season. "Bottom line is that's too many."
Ovechkin entered the game with just five goals in 15 games but he was a physical force, using burst of speed down the right wing to draw a pair of penalties, one of which led to the Capitals taking a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on Devils defenseman Andy Greene with a bulrush near the end of the first period, then pulled a similar power move midway through the second period, forcing New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov to upend him with a tripping penalty.
The Caps responded with Mathieu Perreault's power play goal at the 9:28 mark. The crafty center picked up Troy Brouwer's rebound and lifted it over Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for a 1-0 lead.
The Devils gave the Capitals another power play when Marek Zidicky went off for interference, but both teams scored on the Washington power play.
Patrik Elias put the Devils on the board when he and Adam Henrique forechecked the Capitals into a giveaway that led to Elias' shorthanded goal at 11:16 of the second period. Just 1:24 later the Caps answered on the same power play when Mike Ribeiro wristed a shot through the pads of Brodeur for his sixth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
The power-play goal was Washington's second of the game and 10th in eight games.
NOTES: Capitals defenseman Mike Green took pre-game warmups but sat out his second straight game with a lower body injury. Rookie Tomas Kundratek took Green's spot on Washington's top defense unit with Karl Alzner. ... The Devils were without forward Ryan Carter, who is sidelined by an apparent head injury and did not make the trip toWashington, where the two teams will play again on Saturday. Stefan Matteau, New Jersey's first pick of the 2012 draft (29th overall) took Carter's place in the lineup. ... This is the first time in Devils history that they will face the same opponent in back-to-back games on the road. The last time the Capitals had two straight home games against the same opponent was in 2006 when they lost three in a row to the Carolina Hurricanes, the first in Raleigh and the next two in Washington.