Taking a page from the Devils book, the Capitals played a very patient defensive game.
"They are a team that waits to capitalize on your mistakes and then they jump on you," Johnson said. "Today, we were really patient. We didn't make mistakes in the neutral zone. We had the perfect game plan."
Cam Janssen and Jay Pandolfo scored for the Devils, who also fell into an emotional trap following a hard-fought sweep of a home-and-home series with the New York Rangers. New Jersey came out flat, fell behind 3-0 and never recovered.
"It was pretty obvious we didn't have our best game," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "It took us a couple of periods to get ourselves going. By that time, the damage was done."
Jurcina was credited with the only goal of the first period. The defenseman fired a shot from just inside that deflected off a maze of bodies that included Semin in front of Martin Brodeur at 8:43.
Washington got goals from Semin and Pettinger in the second period to go up by 3.
Semin, scoring for only the third time in the last 12 games, got his 32nd goal at 2:18. Kris Beech threw a two-zone pass to Semin who swooped into the Devils end and flipped a backhander over Brodeur.
Pettinger added a short-handed tally at 4:35.
The Devils broke Johnson's shutout bid with a goal from an unlikely source at 10:33. Tough guy Janssen, back on the ice after serving a holding penalty, beat Johnson from the top of the right circle for his first NHL goal -- and point -- in his 82-game career.
In the third, Washington opened a 4-1 lead on Fleischmann's first NHL goal. Just like Janssen, Fleischmann had returned seconds earlier from serving a penalty. Brodeur dived to block the shot, which hit his stick and popped into the net.
"It was pretty scary giving them that power play," Fleischmann said. "If they scored, it's 3-2. It was very exciting to get a breakaway and the goal."
The tally came seconds after Johnson stopped Mike Rupp's point-blank shot that would have pulled the Devils within one.
Pandolfo scored with 5:58 remaining to cut the Capitals lead to 4-2 as the Devils finally came alive in the final period. They outshot the Capitals 14-7 in the third.
"They really turned it up," Johnson said. "They were all over us late."
- The game opened a home-and-home series. The teams meet again Sunday afternoon in Washington.
- Brodeur made his 32nd consecutive start for the Devils. Julien has hinted that backup Scott Clemmensen might get the start Sunday. Clemmensen has made only two starts in three appearances this season.
- The Devils called up C Rod Pelley from Lowell (AHL) on Saturday.