Washington right wing Garnet Hathaway, behind net, watches his shot get past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood for a first-period goal Saturday during the Capitals’ 5-2 win in Newark, New Jersey. Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Based on recent results, the Washington Capitals are getting used to Coach Peter Laviolette’s new system.

They are even winning games when Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin don’t contribute a point.

Garnet Hathaway, a Kennebunkport native, and Daniel Sprong scored in the opening 5:06, and the streaking Capitals opened an early three-goal lead on the way to a 5-2 win over the slumping New Jersey Devils on Saturday.

Lars Eller, who added the third goal in a big opening period, thinks Washington is hitting its stride in a 5-1-1 run that followed a four-game losing streak.

“I think Pittsburgh (Thursday) was maybe our best game of the season and today we finally came out with a really good start, we were on our toes, all four lines were going,” Eller said. “I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen here lately, but especially the last two games more so maybe, and then the last five, seven or so.”

Jakub Vrana scored on a third-period breakaway and Nic Dowd added an empty-net tally as the Capitals kept New Jersey at bay after it got within a goal of the lead. Rookie Vitek Vanecek had 22 saves in his ninth win.

Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha each scored for the second consecutive game for New Jersey, which has lost four of five. Mackenzie Blackwood made 19 saves as the Devils opened a five-game homestand.

Devils Coach Lindy Ruff said the opening period was dreadful.

“We weren’t ready to play,” Ruff said. “We weren’t ready to compete. We turned a lot of pucks over and looked like we wanted to be a little bit of a fancy team, because our wall battles weren’t great to start the game. I thought the last 40, that’s the team I like to see. But totally unacceptable in the first 20.”

FLYERS 3, SABRES 0: Brian Elliott stopped 23 shots to shut out host Buffalo for the second time this season.

The Flyers were spurred by a replenished lineup in which four players returned after spending two weeks in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. They included Scott Laughton, who scored a breakaway goal to make it 3-0 late in the second period.

Sean Couturier had a goal and an assist to extend his points streak to five games, in which he has four goals and five assists, and Shayne Gostisbehere also scored. Philadelphia won consecutive games for the first time since a five-game winning streak to close January.

Elliott improved to 5-1 this season and upped his career record to 15-2-2 with four shutouts against the Sabres, including a 40-save outing in a 3-0 win on Jan. 19.

FLAMES 6, SENATORS 3: Calgary used a balanced scoring attack, getting goals from six players in a victory in Ottawa, Ontario.

Juuso Valimaki, Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Flames, who ended Ottawa’s three-game winning streak.

Drake Batherson, Colin White and Brady Tkachuk replied for the last-place Senators.

PREDATORS 2, BLUE JACKETS 1: Mattias Ekholm scored a pair of second-period goals to lead Nashville to a win at home.

Juuse Saros made 29 saves for Nashville, earning his first victory since Jan. 27.

Cam Atkinson scored and Joonas Korpisalo made 31 saves for Columbus, which has lost four straight.

PENGUINS 4, ISLANDERS 3: Kris Letang got his second goal of the game 4:34 into overtime, giving Pittsburgh a win at New York.

Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, which beat the Islanders for the fourth time in five meetings this season.

New York fell to 6-0-2 at Nassau Coliseum, remaining the NHL’s only team without a regulation loss at home. The Islanders went 7-2-2 in February – with all four losses coming against the Penguins.

MAPLE LEAFS 4, OILERS 0: Jack Campbell made 30 saves for his third NHL shutout, Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist and Toronto won the opener of a three-game set in Edmonton.

William Nylander, Jason Spezza and Zach Hyman also scored for Toronto (16-4-2), which was without NHL goals leader Auston Matthews because of a wrist injury.

LIGHTNING 5, STARS 0: Andrei Vasilevskiy made 20 saves for his second straight shutout, and Tampa Bay beat Dallas in the first Stanley Cup rematch of the season.

HURRICANES 4, PANTHERS 3: Martin Necas scored the winning goal in a shootout as Carolina won at Sunrise, Florida.

RED WINGS 5, BLACKHAWKS 3: Frans Nielsen had a goal and an assist as Detroit won at Chicago.

WILD 4, KINGS 3: Matt Dumba scored in the final second of overtime to give Minnesota a win at home.

NOTES

SABRES: Starting goalie Linus Ullmark will miss at least the next month because of a lower-body injury, leaving Buffalo with one established netminder.

Captain Jack Eichel also missed a second straight game Saturday and remains day-to-day because of a lower body injury.

Veteran backup Carter Hutton will take over as Buffalo’s No. 1 goalie, with minor league callup Jonas Johansson serving as backup.

High-priced forward Jeff Skinner returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the previous three games.


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