NEWARK, N.J. — Connor McMichael scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and Hunter Shepard made 18 saves in his NHL debut as the Washington Capitals rallied for a 6-4 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
McMichael scored his second goal of the season at 2:09 of the third to put Washington ahead 5-4 after Dylan Strome tied the contest at 4 just 18 seconds into the final period on the power-play.
Alex Ovechkin added an empty net goal at 18:25, the 824th of his NHL career.
“Our power play steps up right out of the gate to sort of set the tone for the third period,” Capitals coach Spencer Carbery said. “And then we did enough good things in the final 10 minutes to hang on.”
Washington scored three times in the first, then the Devils scored four goals in the second before the Capitals scored three more in the third.
According to OptaSTATS, Washington became the first team in NHL history to shut out their opponent by three or more goals in the first period, get blanked by four or more goals in the second, then shut out their opponent by three or more goals again in the third.
Devils coach Lindy Ruff simply wasn’t happy with his team’s defensive lapses.
“If we’re going to play like this, we will make it extremely hard on ourselves,” Ruff said. “I thought we got what we deserved tonight.”
After the two quick goals to start the third, Washington held on for its second win in six games as the 27-year-old Shepard – MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs last spring after leading the Hershey Bears to the AHL championship – overcame a rough second period.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet,” said Shepard, who won NCAA championships with Minnesota-Duluth in 2018 and 2019. “I’m excited to get out there and see my parents, pretty emotional day. To have 13 or 14 people make it here on a day’s notice from Minnesota, it’s quite the support system.”
Tyler Toffoli scored twice for New Jersey and Jack Hughes added three assists. Hughes leads the NHL in scoring with 17 points, including four goals.
Washington rolled to a 3-0 first-period lead on goals by Anthony Mantha, Strome and Sonny Milano.
Mantha opened the scoring at 6:37. Strome made it 2-0 at 15:52, sliding the puck past Devils netminder Akira Schmid. Milano made it a three-goal margin at 17:28, assisted by T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Vitek Vanecek replaced Schmid after the first period. Schmid had five saves and Vanecek made 14 stops.
The momentum completely shifted in New Jersey’s favor in the second as they erupted for four goals in less than six minutes.
Toffoli, who scored a hat trick in Tuesday’s 5-2 win at Montreal, put New Jersey on the board at 4:31.
Timo Meier, last season’s key trade deadline acquisition by the Devils, scored at 5:19 with assists to Jack Hughes and Toffoli before Devils captain Nico Hischier tied the game 3-3 at 6:42.
Toffoli then scored his sixth of the season at 10:01 with assists from Jack Hughes and his younger brother Luke to put New Jersey ahead 4-3.
“It was a rollercoaster game,” Meier said. “We just let that momentum swing get away from us.”
The Capitals had managed only seven goals in their first five games before notching six on Wednesday.
Devils: Host the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
Capitals: Host the Minnesota Wild on Friday.