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WASHINGTON – In the Capitals' last game, goalie Braden Holtby was removed before the first period was 10 minutes old.
His acrobats in the first period Thursday night kept Washington in the game.
Alex Ovechkin scored in his third straight game, Holtby made 26 saves — including 12 in the first period — and the Capitals pulled away for a 6-2 win over New Jersey on Thursday night, handing the Devils their first loss.
Holtby, lifted in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots in Tuesday's shootout loss to San Jose, allowed two first-period goals against the Devils.
With the pressure New Jersey applied, it could have been much worse.
"That's a goalie's opportunity to change some momentum in a game and ... that's what I didn't do last game and needed to do this game," Holtby said. "That's my job description."
With the score tied 2-2 late in the first, and the Devils on a power play, Holtby made a sliding save to rob Jaromir Jagr.
"Holts stood on his head for us," Washington's Chris Brown said. "That first period — I don't think we would have won the game without him in (goal)."
Marcus Johansson scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period for the Capitals (2-0-2).
Brown, Nicklas Backstrom, Joel Ward and Andre Burakovsky also scored for Washington, and Troy Brouwer, Mike Green, Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen each had two assists.
"I thought we got stronger as the game went on," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We were a little bit slow coming out."
Rookie defenseman Damon Severson scored twice for the Devils (3-1-0), who were seeking their first 4-0 start since 1995-96.
"I think we would have taken 3-1 to start on the road," Devils coach Pete DeBoers said. "Still doesn't sit well because I thought tonight was a winnable game for us."
Cory Schneider had 21 saves before being lifted at 3:25 of the third after Ward's shot from the blue line caromed off the end boards, hit Schneider and went in, making it 5-2 on the Capitals second goal in a span of 2:29.
"We felt good about our chances going into the third period (down 3-2) and then they got a good break on the fourth one, and then obviously the fifth one," Schneider said. "It's all on me and it just really took the wind out of our sails."
Mike Cammalleri had an assist, giving him points in each of his first four games with the Devils.
Burakovsky, Washington's first-round draft choice in 2013, has points in each of his first four games.
Johansson put the Capitals ahead 3-2 at 6:18 of the second period when he took a pass from Brooks Laich and wristed a shot past Schneider from the slot.
New Jersey hadn't trailed in its three previous games, but the Capitals took a 1-0 lead just 34 seconds in.
Schneider made a kick save on a shot by Brouwer, but Ovechkin got the rebound and sent a high wrist shot in for his fifth goal in his last three games.
Severson tied it at 10:15 with a blast from the right point.
Brown put the Capitals back on top less than a minute later, but Severson evened it again late in the period, again from the right point.
NOTES: Backstrom has 499 points in 499 NHL games. ... Cammalleri joined Neal Broten (seven games), Bobby Holik (five games) and Doug Gilmour as Devils who picked up points in their first four games with the team. ... Devils forward Martin Havlat left with a bloody nose in the second period after Jason Chimera shoved him and Havlat collided with referee Darcy Burchell behind the Washington net. . Washington's John Carlson played in his 300th consecutive game, tops in franchise history for defensemen.