NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Heading into the All-Star break, the Washington Capitals are in the same position they were at the end of the regular season last year - leading the pack in the NHL.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice, Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist and the Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night to go into the break with a good shot at a second straight President's Trophy.
''For the first 20-something games, I thought we were trying to re-establish our identity,'' Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt said. ''The last 20, we have found our way back to what we want to do, and get back to the style we want to play.''
The Capitals are on a roll heading into the break. They went 13-1-2 in their last 16 and they have 72 points in 49 games.
''A month ago, we probably wouldn't have thought we'd be where we are,'' said goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 27 saves. ''Our game's come together. We had some fortune in some games and played really well in others. We're going strong but we know we can't get complacent now. We'll take the All-Star break to rest some guys and come back stronger.''
Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also scored for the Capitals, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov added two assists.
Stefan Noesen and Adam Henrique scored for New Jersey, which has lost six straight at home. The Devils are tied with Detroit for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference.
''Obviously, not where we want to be,'' said goalie Cory Schneider, who stopped all 18 shots after taking over for Keith Kinkaid in the second period. ''The way we started the year, we had some pretty lofty aspirations. I still believe we have a team that can play well and win games. That's our objective right now. Clearly we are looking up now. We are out of the playoffs. That's the reality. We just have to keep grinding and just get better.''
Washington never trailed after Ovechkin picked the pocket of Devils defenseman Kyle Quincey at the New Jersey blue line, skated in on Kinkaid and roofed a backhander into the top of the net at 6:14 of the first period. It was his 23rd goal.
Burakovsky capitalized on another Devils mistake with a power-play goal at 18:28. Kuznetsov sent a pass from the corner that Henrique intercepted briefly in front and then lost. Burakovsky collected it in front of Kinkaid and put his 10th goal into an open net.
Noesen, acquired on waivers Wednesday from Anaheim, scored in his Devils debut, beating Holtby 1-on-1 at 3:19 of the second period after being set up by a pass from Pavel Zacha.
Eller and Kuznetsov padded the lead to 4-1, scoring less than two minutes after midway through the period. Eller tallied on a rebound and Kuznetsov got a little lucky on a power play when he had the puck roll off his stick on a break-in and it rolled between Kinkaid's pads.
Schneider replaced Kinkaid at that point and held Washington scoreless until Kuznetsov scored into an empty net. Kinkaid allowed four goals on 17 shots.
Henrique closed the gap to 4-2 late in the second, scoring on a deflection on a power play.
NOTES: Capitals RW T.J. Oshie missed the game for personal reasons. Jay Beagle replaced him, skating on the line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. ... Ovechkin's goal was his 548th, tying him with Michel Goulet for 28th on the NHL's career list. ... New Jersey wore its retro red-and-green jerseys. ... Orlov's two assists tied his season high. ... Noesen has three goals in 13 games this season. ... Capitals RW Tom Wilson got a game misconduct in the third period for being the third man during a fight between Kyle Palmieri of the Devils and Brooks Orpik of the Capitals.
Capitals: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday in their first game after the All-Star break.
Devils: At the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.
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