NEWARK — The only drawback to hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup is the bulls-eye placed on your back the following season.
Miles Wood might have taken that too much to heart.
Fresh off a brand-new, four-year, $11-million contract, Wood sprinted from his bench — 150 feet — back into his own zone and jumped on the back of Alexander Ovechkin, ripping off the helmet of the Washington Capitals’ team captain after a scrum ensued just over 12 minutes into the first period.
Even though the aerial assault earned Wood an extra two minutes in the penalty box for roughing, the instigator set the tone for the New Jersey Devils as Kyle Palmieri scored twice, Brian Boyle added a goal and an assist, and Keith Kinkaid turned aside all 21 shots he faced in a 6-0 drubbing of the defending champion Capitals before a packed house in its 2018-19 home opener at Prudential Center in Newark.
After Palmieri put the Devils up 2-0 after one, Marcus Johansson exacted a little bit of revenge by scoring his first-career goal against his old team 2:54 into the second, before Blake Coleman, Jean-Sebastien Dea and Boyle all scored in a 10-minute span of the third period in the one-sided affair.
The Devils (2-0), playing for the first time in five days following their season-opener against the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Global Series in Sweden on Oct. 6, held the Capitals to just 11 shots through two periods and at bay throughout the tilt with the man-advantage (o-for-4) en route to just its second win over Washington in their last 18 meetings (2-14-2).
“They have so much firepower,” Devils’ forward and 2017-18 Hart Trophy Winner Taylor Hall said of the Capitals. “They had a lot of slow shots, some Grade A chances that Keith came up big on. Still some things to work on, but overall anytime you can shut a team like that out — especially on the power play — you’re going to win a game.
“It was a four-line effort tonight,” Hall, the NHL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, said. “For the most part we rolled four lines, everyone was playing, everyone was contributing whether it was in the offensive zone or the D-zone blocking shots. Just a really solid night by everyone. That’s how we have to play, especially against teams with that kind of firepower up front like the Capitals. Right from the drop of the puck tonight we were in their face.”
The Capitals (2-1-1) were in the second game of back-to-backs after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. Washington looked flat, running on fumes for much of the first two frames failing to even record a shot on goal on each of its first three power play opportunities.
For first-year coach Todd Reirden, the night’s lackluster performance was a concern.
“They were sharp, got to give credit to (the Devils). They were at the top of their game,” Reirden, in his first season as head coach after four seasons as assistant under Barry Trotz, said. “They were able to convert on their chances and the couple of times we could get back in it we weren’t able to finish when we had the chances.
“That’s the game — different situations that present themselves to you as a coach and a team — it’s how you respond to it and understand the areas you need to improve on and getting better on,” Reirden said. “Just understanding the situation when you’re back-to-back going against a fresh team and how you can manage the game a little bit better. Those are learning points. Those are things we’ll discuss.”
Palmieri now has four goals in two games, becoming the first player in Devils’ franchise history to record two goals in each of his team’s first two games of the season.
“You always have to be confident in the way you shoot the puck,” Palmieri told NHL.com. “You have to be confident you can put it in the spot you want, and I think, for me, it’s fortunate they’re going in. We’ll see how long we can keep that going.”
congrats are in order for @kylepalmieri!
with this @psegdelivers powerplay goal in #wshvsnjd, he became the first player in #njdevils franchise history to record two goals in each of the team’s first two games of the season. pic.twitter.com/tu7wohe7Tp
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 12, 2018
Johansson played in 501 games over seven seasons as a member of the Washington Capitals before signing with the Devils last year. His goal, assisted by Sami Vatanen and Mirco Mueller early in the second period, made it 3-0, further deflated the defending champs.
“We just played the right way,” Johannson said. “(Kinkaid) was playing unbelievable in net and PK did a great job. Their power play has been really hot lately but we had guys blocking shots. That just shows the character we have in this room.”
After Wood set the tone in the first and Johansson got a little payback in the second, Coleman added insult to injury in the third.
“I felt like we really handled that game for the full 60 minutes,” Coleman, who made it 4-0 after his shot found a fortuitous hole 5:49 into the third. “It certainly feels good getting one this early in the year.
“We love being here at “The Rock” and the support we have here,” Coleman said. “We set the bar a little higher last year and we’re looking to build this year. I think every guy in this room will tell you the same thing: this is a championship-type team and it starts with getting off to a good start and we’ve done that so far.”
The Devils are in the midst of a five-game homestand which continues Oct. 14 against the San Jose Sharks and Oct. 16 versus the Dallas Stars. New Jersey and Washington will meet again at Capital One Arena on Nov. 30.
“Yeah it’s a statement, but it’s just two points,” Hall added. “They matter just the same as any other win, but overall it’s an effort we can be proud of.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils battles with Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals during the first period at the Prudential Center on October 11, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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