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Capitals' four-game winning streak ends with 5-2 loss to Devils

New Jersey Devils' Matt Halischuk celebrates his first NHL goal during the second period of an hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils' Matt Halischuk celebrates his first NHL goal during the second period of an hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) (Bill Kostroun - AP)

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 15, 2009

NEWARK -- With Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble sidelined, the Washington Capitals needed a near-perfect performance Saturday night to beat the red-hot New Jersey Devils.

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The effort, however, was far from textbook.

They scored the game's first two goals less than a minute apart early in the first period. But the disciplined Devils exploited the Capitals' penchant for penalties and turnovers and a sub-par showing from goaltender José Theodore to rip off five consecutive goals in a thorough 5-2 victory at Prudential Center.

"We needed to play a real sound defensive game with almost no turnovers, and we weren't able to do that," defenseman Brian Pothier said. They had a lot of three-on-twos tonight. Their whole game plan is they wait [for mistakes] and then pounce on it. This was a big test for us as a group."

The loss was the Capitals' first in five games but third to the Devils in three games this season. Martin Brodeur and the Devils, meantime, extended their winning streak to eight in a row and pulled even with the Capitals atop the Eastern Conference with 28 points.

While Washington struggled in a number of areas before an announced crowd of 16,521, Coach Bruce Boudreau singled out two -- Theodore's problems in net and Alexander Semin's turnover on the Devils' second goal.

Theodore yielded five goals on the first 18 shots he faced (he faced 23 in all). Going back to Wednesday's game against the New York Islanders, in which he was pulled before seven-minute mark, he allowed eight goals on 23 shots.

"He just has to stop the puck," Boudreau said. "The power-play goal was a clear shot by [Jamie] Langenbrunner, no screen. [Zach] Parise's was a breakaway, but he made it look pretty easy. The next one was short side over the blocker from outside the dot. Those things, José has to stop."

Theodore agreed, saying: "You need to make some big saves, and tonight, pretty much, all the good chances they had they scored. It wasn't all bad goals, but I have to find a way to make saves. I'm really not happy with the way I've been playing the last couple of games. I have to get back to being really focused, that extra edge that I had."

Boudreau said he has not lost confidence in Theodore.

"His history has been that he'll play a whole bunch of good games, then a couple of bad games, then will turn it around because he's mentally strong," he said.

Theodore certainly has had better games, but there was plenty of fault to spread around in this one, particularly during a defensively sloppy second period in which the Devils seized control.


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