Capitals continue search for offense against Devils

A team that has scored 10 goals over its past two games squares off against one struggling to find the net when the New Jersey Devils face the Washington Capitals on Wednesday in Newark, N.J.

Both teams will be playing the second of back-to-back nights after the visiting Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Tuesday while the host Capitals dropped a 4-1 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tyler Toffoli had a hat trick for the Devils, Jack Hughes continued his torrid start with four assists and Vitek Vanecek made 27 saves for New Jersey, which will look for its third straight win. The Devils edged the New York Islanders 5-4 in overtime on Friday.

Hughes has four goals and 10 assists in five games, including back-to-back four-point contests.

“The way that he can take over a game and just make small little plays and back guys off, that makes the game so much easier for myself and the guys on the team,” Toffoli said of Hughes.

Montreal pulled within 4-2 midway through the third period, but Toffoli closed it out with an empty-net goal.

The Devils went 2-for-4 on the power play and are 11-for-25 with the man advantage. They lead the NHL with a 44 percent success rate.

“It’s something that we’ve worked hard (at), but I think our guys have matured,” New Jersey coach Lindy Ruff said. “We know there’ll be a few games where maybe it doesn’t click, but I think you’ve got the saying, you’ve got to make hay when the sun is shining.”

The Capitals, meanwhile, are getting the shots. They’re just not going in. Toronto goalie Joseph Woll made 36 saves on Tuesday night, including stopping Alex Ovechkin on a penalty shot.

“I think we had lots of opportunities,” Ovechkin said. “I think we played the right way, but we’re just in that period of time when we have to fight through it and don’t be panicking, don’t be frustrated. It’s just part of the process.”

The Capitals — who have scored just six goals through five games — lost what would have been the game’s first goal when Ovechkin was called for goaltender interference after a video review in the first period.

Ovechkin later scored a second-period power-play goal — his first goal of the season and career No. 300 on the power play — and finished with 14 shots on goal. No other player in the game had more than four shots on goal.

“He looked different tonight, even another gear,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said of Ovechkin. “He was attacking all night. He was not deferring at all. You could tell that early, especially that first power play, that it was coming to the cage today. … He set the tone in there, we just couldn’t find a way to get one early or get that game tied.”

The Capitals are 1-for-16 on the power play, with Ovechkin’s goal ending an 0-for-15 skid.

Washington goalie Darcy Kuemper allowed four goals on 17 Toronto shots. Hunter Shepard will make his NHL debut against the Devils while backup Charlie Lindgren remains on the injured list.

Shepard, a 27-year-old Minnesota native, is 2-0-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and an .885 save percentage with Hershey of the AHL this season. He started all 20 Calder Cup playoff games for the champion Bears last season, going 14-6 with three shutouts, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

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