WASHINGTON — Zach Parise notched a hat trick before a crunching hit from two players sent him to the locker room midway through the second period, and the New Jersey Devils snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Washington Capitals 5-0 Friday night.
Parise raised his total to a team-high 27 goals – including pairing with a somersaulting Dainius Zubrus for two that came 29 seconds apart – but left the game at the 9:40 mark of the second period, when he was sandwiched between Washington forwards Matt Hendricks and Brooks Laich near the boards.
Parise stayed down for a bit while being checked, then was helped off the ice. He was on the bench in the third period, smiling while chatting with teammates, and played briefly on a power play with about six minutes left.
Devils goalie Johan Hedberg, playing in place of Martin Brodeur for the first time since Feb. 9, made 23 saves for his first win since Feb. 4 against Philadelphia. Hedberg collected his third shutout of the season and 20th of his career. Less than four minutes into the game, he made an athletic play to swoop across his crease and block Troy Brouwer's shot after Laich sent a pass right in front of the net. But Hedberg wasn't challenged much after that.
The Devils, meanwhile, needed about 11 1/2 minutes to register its second official shot on Michal Neuvirth – but they made it count. Parise got his first of the night by knocking in a sensational no-look, between-the-legs backhand pass from David Clarkson on a power play to make it 1-0. Patrik Elias earned a secondary assist on the play.
By the time New Jersey's shots-on-goal total reached seven, the score was 3-0, and the red-clad Washington fans were booing. The jeering would return throughout the game.
The visitors went ahead 2-0 at the 17:50 mark of the opening period when Ilya Kovalchuk's shot from the right wing trickled through Neuvirth's legs. Parise was in the right spot at the right time and easily tapped the puck home.
A half-minute later, the score was 3-0, courtesy of former Capitals forward Zubrus' highlight-reel goal. Leaving his skates, he pushed Clarkson's assist into the net the goal, and then Zubrus' momentum carried him into a backward tumble.
In its previous game, against the visiting New York Islanders on Tuesday, Washington overcame a 2-0 deficit in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation, then won on Alex Ovechkin's overtime goal. But there would be no such comeback on this night.
Indeed, things only got worse for the four-time reigning Southeast Division champions, who are in danger of missing the playoffs. They remained ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Winnipeg Jets.
Parise got his third goal of the game, and 27th of the season, 3:08 into the second period, thanks to some sloppy defense by Washington. Trailing 4-0, the Capitals got a little chippy, including the simultaneous hit on Parise.
And then it was 5-0, at the 15:02 mark of the second, as Elias scored off Zubrus' assist on a short-handed breakaway. The boos grew to their loudest point yet.
The Capitals' three-game winning streak ended – as did Neuvirth's. He was making his fourth start in a row.
Notes: The Devils were playing the second half of a back-to-back after losing 4-3 in overtime at Boston on Thursday. ... New Jersey avoided what would have been its first five-game skid of the season. ... Washington was seeking its first four-game winning streak since Dec. 28 to Jan. 3. ... Neuvirth had never lost in regulation in six previous career starts against the Devils, boasting a 1.46 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.