Ovechkin on target as Caps down Devils to top NHL

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Alex Ovechkin scored against goaltender Martin Brodeur for the first time in four years to help the Washington Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Saturday and take over as NHL leaders.

The Russian ended his nine-game drought against Brodeur when he scored early in the first period then had two assists as Matt Bradley, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green also found a way past the Canadian netminder.

Washington's third straight win improved their season record to 24-8-6 and lifted them to the top of the league standings, one point clear of New Jersey, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was the first time the Capitals managed to defeat the Devils in four attempts this season.

The Devils (26-9-1) suffered their first loss in six games despite 36 saves from Brodeur, who set the all-time record for regular season shutouts on Monday.

Rod Pelley provided the lone goal for the visitors, putting in a snap shot to cut the first period deficit to 2-1 but Backstrom answered with a backhand at 9:52 in the second and Green put the contest away 39 seconds into the third.

Michal Neuvirth had 29 stops for Washington as he continues to fill in for the injured Semyon Varlamov, who remains sidelined with a groin ailment.

He received great support from his stellar offense in front of him as the Capitals lead the NHL in goals per game. Ovechkin has been particularly hot as of late and has three straight three-point performances.

"You look at how the game went (and) I feel that our puck control wasn't as it used to be," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said.

"Special teams, we had so many power plays and I think they got more chances than we did on our power-play. For me, it determined the whole game."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)