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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 8th (All times Eastern)
New Jersey Devils (24-21-13) at Washington Capitals (26-23-9), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the teams involved in the Eastern Conference's logjam for a playoff spot square off on Saturday night when the Washington Capitals play host to the New Jersey Devils.
Both the Caps and Devils have 61 points on the season, putting them three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The 61 points is also three back of the Detroit Red Wings for eighth place in the East.
Washington is 4-2-1 in its last seven games and had to rally in the third period to best the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Thursday. The Capitals trailed by a goal heading into the frame, but Tom Wilson tied the contest 3:38 into the third and Alex Ovechkin's league-leading 40th goal of the campaign was the winner at the 7:46 mark.
Troy Brouwer added his second tally of the contest in the period to add insurance and Braden Holtby made 34 saves.
"We came out, we started winning battles and as a result we were holding the puck a little bit more -- creating some more opportunities," Brouwer said of Washington's strong third session. "Good defensive play, which led to some rushes offensively."
Ovechkin reached the 40-goal mark for the sixth time in his career and owns a 10-goal lead over Toronto's Phil Kessel for the most in the NHL.
Washington concludes a four-game homestand tonight before the league goes on break for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Caps forward Marcus Johansson found out on Friday he will be heading to Sochi, Russia to participate after getting selected to replace the injured Henrik Sedin on Team Sweden.
The Devils, meanwhile, look to record a point in a fifth consecutive game, having gone 2-0-2 over the last four. Each of their last four games have gone to overtime, including last night's 2-1 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers.
Rookie defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first career goal and it was the winner with 2:26 remaining in the bonus frame.
Michael Ryder set up the score, taking the puck away from a scrum along the right-wing boards then dishing between the circles for Merrill, who ripped a shot off the near pipe and in.
The 22-year-old Merrill had posted four assists in 30 NHL games this season before recording his first tally.
"You always dream about that kind of stuff when you're a little kid," Merrill said. "I'm sure my phone will have some texts, but I'll probably reach out to my father, first and foremost. It's good to get the first one. It's a huge win for the team, as well. That's most important."
Andrei Loktionov provided the other goal to back 19 saves from Cory Schneider for the Devils, who had failed to hold third-period leads in each of their previous three games.
Jaromir Jagr had an assist in the game, giving him 1,039 for his career. That puts him just one helper back of matching Marcel Dionne for ninth on the league's all-time list.
The Devils have won both of their earlier meetings with the Capitals this season and have taken eight of the previous 12 encounters overall.
New Jersey has won four of its last five in Washington.
02/08 16:02:50 ET