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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

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Kovalchuk's OT goal gives Devils win over Capitals

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Ilya Kovalchuk scored 4:39 into overtime, and the New Jersey Devils won their third straight game to start the lockout-shortened season, 3-2 over the winless Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kovalchuk took a pass from defenseman Marek Zidlicky low in the left circle and beat Michal Neuvirth, who was outstanding in overtime. Neuvirth made seven saves, most on a New Jersey power play.

Stephen Gionta and Patrik Elias scored for New Jersey, which is off to its first 3-0 start since the 2002-03 season, the last time the Devils won the Stanley Cup.

Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green scored for Washington in the final 7:15 of regulation to force overtime. The Capitals (0-3-1) became the last NHL team to earn a point this season.

Neuvirth finished with 32 saves, stopping five shots after Green was called for interference in the opening minute of overtime.

Ribeiro had Washington's only shot against Martin Brodeur in the extra session, but it was a good one in close. Brodeur, who was within 7:15 of his 121st career shutout, made the save with his shoulder. The puck just missed the upper corner of the net.

Washington was seemingly out of the game trailing 2-0 until the Devils took a couple of penalties in the final 10 minutes of regulation, The Capitals took advantage despite playing their second game in two nights.

Ribeiro cut the deficit in half with a slam-dunk goal from the edge of the crease with the Capitals enjoying a two-man advantage.

Green, who was stopped on a great chance from between the circles in the opening minute, tied it with 2:56 left in the third period. Zidlicky failed to get the puck out of his zone, and Green beat Brodeur trough a screen with a shot from the right point for his first goal of the season.

Brodeur appeared headed for his second straight shutout since April 2010, but it wasn't to be.

Under new coach Adam Oates, the Capitals are off to their worst start since dropping six straight in the 1993-94 season. Washington recovered then and made the playoffs before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers in the second round.

The Devils didn't have a lot of chances against Neuvirth early, but made the most of the them.

Gionta gave the Devils the lead at 13:55 of the first period, just a second after an effective Capitals power play expired.

Defenseman Mark Fayne started the rush by poking the puck to Gionta at the blue line. He carried into center ice and made a cross-ice pass to Jacob Josefson. Before being sandwiched by defenseman Tomas Kundratek and Troy Brouwer, the Swede swept the puck to Gionta, who beat Neuvirth one-on-one for his second career regular-season goal.

Washington nearly tied the game on a power play with roughly eight minutes left in the second. Ovechkin, who was moved back to left wing from right wing before the game, was stopped on a blue-line blast. Brodeur then turned away a backhand rebound attempt by Joel Ward, who had the primary assist on Ribeiro's goal.

Elias stretched the Devils' lead to 2-0 with a minute left in the second period when New Jersey had a 5-on-3 advantage. A shot from the point by Zidlicky hit the skate of teammate David Clarkson in front, and Elias put the rebound into a wide-open net.

NOTES: Brodeur finished with 26 saves. ... The 3-0 start is the Devils' best since starting the 2002-03 season with the same record. They won the Stanley Cup that year.

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Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

Playoffs Power Rankings: On to Round two

And then there were eight.

The Caps’ Game 6 victory on Sunday brought to a close the first round of the playoffs. Already, the field looks entirely different than many anticipated.

Washington came into the postseason as the team to beat, but the Caps were given all they could handle by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, made short work of the Columbus Blue Jackets in what was expected to be one of the most competitive series of the first round. This begs the question, are the Penguins now the frontrunners in the East despite ceding home-ice advantage to Washington and not having Kris Letang?

SEE THE UPDATED STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS POWER RANKINGS HERE

The West is now wide open after the Nashville Predators’ stunning sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Coming into the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues had the longest odds of any team to win the Cup because their path went through the top two seeds in the West. The Blues dispatched the Minnesota Wild in just five games and Chicago is already out. If you put money on St. Louis, you’re probably feeling pretty good right now.

But did Nashville’s sweep show that they are now the frontrunners in the West?

And let's not forget about the Pacific. The Anaheim Ducks have yet to lose this postseason after a sweep of the Calgary Flames while Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers are out to prove that experience is overrated.

Find out where all eight of the remaining teams stand in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

Prediction recap: Washington survives Toronto's best shot

The Maple Leafs made a push for Game 7, but in the end they fell in Game 6 as the Caps took the game and the series on Sunday.

Here's a recap of the three bold predictions.

1. Toronto will score in the third period - Correct

The hockey gods would not allow this prediction to be wrong. Did you see that bounce off the boards? Not only did it bounce right into the danger area right in front of the bench, it went to the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer in Auston Matthews.

RELATED: 3 key observations: Caps save their best for last

2. Someone will take a penalty against Alex Ovechkin - Wrong

Give Mike Babcock all the credit in the world. Every point where you thought lack of experience would hurt Toronto, it didn’t. That speaks to coaching. I thought the Maple Leafs would try to coax a penalty out of Ovechkin, but would get carried away. Yet, despite their inexperience and the pressure of the moment, Toronto remained very disciplined.

3. If Toronto leads after the first period, the series is going 7 games - Push

For the first time all series, the score after the first period was 0-0. Both teams had chances but looked more tentative than they had earlier in the series. They recognized what was at stake on Sunday and affected the play to a degree.

2017 Results: I expected to see Toronto’s best push in Game 6 and I was not sure how the Caps would respond. Washington’s response late in the game was very impressive and a great sign for Caps fans going forward in the postseason.

Correct: 8
Wrong: 9
Push: 1

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals vs. Penguins schedule announced