Washington Capitals take 3-0 lead, beat NJ Devils 5-2

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Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway (21) scores a goal past New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (29) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEWARK, N.J. – Based on recent results, the Washington Capitals are getting used to coach Peter Laviolette's new system.

They are even winning games when Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin don't contribute a point.

Garnet Hathaway and Daniel Sprong scored in the opening 5:06 and the streaking Capitals opened an early three-goal lead and held off a rally by the slumping New Jersey Devils in a 5-2 win on Saturday.

Lars Eller, who added the third goal in a big opening period, thinks Washington is hitting its stride in a 5-1-1 run that followed a four-game losing streak.

“I think Pittsburgh (Thursday) was maybe our best game of the season and today we finally came out with a really good start, we were on our toes, all four lines were going,” Eller said. “I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen here lately, but especially the last two games more so maybe, and then the last five, seven or so.”

Jabub Vrana scored on a third-period breakaway and Nic Dowd added an empty net tally as the Capitals kept New Jersey at bay after it got within a goal of the lead. Rookie Vitek Vanecek had 22 saves in his ninth win.

Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha each scored for the second consecutive game for New Jersey, which has lost four of five. Mackenzie Blackwood had 19 saves as the Devils opened a five-game homestand.

Devils coach Lindy Ruff said the opening period was dreadful.