Courtesy Twitter: @Capitals

The Devils are looking for a win against a top team after Tuesday’s game against the Bruins slipped away from them.

The New Jersey Devils head into Friday’s game against the Washington Capitals coming off a rough loss to the Boston Bruins. They entered the third period of that game leading 4-2, but ended up losing in a shootout.

Even though they blew the lead and came away with just a point, the Devils did many things right against a stronger Boston team.

The Devils were busy off the ice this week, as well. Winger Nikita Gusev was placed on waivers after struggling for most of the season.

The 28-year-old was one of New Jersey’s best players to end the 2020 season, but hasn’t even looked like a shadow of that player in 2021. Gusev cleared waivers on Friday was assigned to the taxi squad.

We’ll likely see him with the big club from time to time moving forward, but it has become clear that the impending unrestricted free agent is not a part of the future of this organization.

Lineup changes:

• Miles Wood would move back to the right wing to play on the same line as Andreas Johnsson and Pavel Zacha, who is skating in his 300th career game.

• Mikhail Maltsev would skate alongside Michael McLeod and Jesper Boqvist

• MacKenzie Blackwood starts in net

Devils killer Jakub Vrana was a scratch, something the Devils would need to take advantage of.

1st period: Not much going on

Neither team could get anything going offensively in the first: the Capitals outshot the Devils 9-5.

The Devils were on the first power play of the game, albeit a bad one, before Jesper Bratt was booked an a terrible interference call. Zdeno Chara cross-checked him into Capitals goaltender Vitek Vaneček, something that the referees clearly missed.

Neither team scored on the four-on-four or their respective power plays.

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2nd period: They have fight

The Devils had another very good penalty kill in the second, something that was important in a period that the Capitals almost completely dominated.

Halfway through the second, the Capitals created a turnover that turned into a goal for John Carlson, another guy who likes to beat up on New Jersey. The Devils were on their heels for most of this period and were forced to rely on Blackwood far too often.

It looked like the Capitals were going to win this period before the Devils scored somewhat of a surprise goal. The Devils displayed great puck movement, especially through the neutral zone where Michael McLeod caught the Capitals sleeping.

He was able to get open to receive a pass from Boqvist for his third goal in his last six games. Ryan Murray, who recorded the secondary assist on the goal, now has three assists in two games.

The Devils didn’t look particularly good throughout most of the second period, but the fact that they didn’t slow down after falling behind especially against such a dominant team as the Capitals is impressive.

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3rd period: Boring

The third period was extremely uneventful. The Capitals outshot the Devils by a significant margin, but at least the Devils were strong in their own zone and prevented Washington from scoring a potential game-winning goal.

This is the second game in a row that the Devils will head to overtime and the fact that they’re at least getting a point against top teams is something to be proud of.

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Overtime: Another one that hurts

The Devils had some good chances to put this game to bed, especially on a backhander by Jack Hughes, but they couldn’t capitalize. The Capitals ended up winning the game on a fast-break.

This was yet another tough loss to swallow for the Devils and their fans, but the team has shown some encouraging signs and continues to put up fights against better and more experienced squads. The future is bright.

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Key Moment: OT winner

The key moment of the game was Washington’s overtime winner. The Devils did a lot of good in this one, but were dominated more often than not. The Capitals’ game-winning goal symbolized that.

They would’ve had a better chance of winning this one if they attacked more, but there’s a reason that the best teams are just that. This is easier said than done.

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Player of the game: Ryan Murray

Murray was New Jersey’s best player in this one. He did get an assist on his team’s only goal of the game, but he was outstanding in his own zone, as well. His solid play as of late has been a bright spot on this struggling Devils team.

Murray’s numbers: 18:03 TOI, 1 A, 35.29 CF%, 4 blocks, 0.6 xGF, 0.46 xGA, 0.92 GF, 0 GA, 1.58 Game Score, 0.76 defensive rating, 0.06 offensive rating, and 0.75 individual rating.

Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.

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