Sure, the season isn't quite halfway over, but the Capitals' 5-2 win over the Devils on Saturday night ensured that they'd end 2017 in first place.
"To me, it's about playing well," Trotz said. "I just want to want to get into the dance playing well. There's so much parity in this league."
"They came out the first 10 minutes of the game, playing to win, and we didn't," Devils coach John Hynes said. "This was a big game. You can see Washington came to play. It was important to them, and it was important to us. They were the better team tonight."
While Trotz professed not to study the standings, his players knew the significance of the game.
"I think any game is big right now the way the division is shaking out," Carlson said. "You've got to collect them while you can, certainly against teams like this when we're home and rested and they're playing on a back-to-back and on the road."
On Friday night, New Jersey lost in overtime at home after five straight wins. The game against the Capitals was the Devils' first of four consecutive road games.
Marcus Johansson played in his first game as a visitor in Washington after seven seasons with the Capitals and assisted on both goals.
Wilson got the game's first goal, his sixth of the season, beating Schneider at 2:26 in the first period. Djoos gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead at 11:09. It was Djoos' third goal this season and his first since Oct. 21.
"That's where we want to be," Djoos said of his team taking the division lead. "It shows that we can play against them and win."
After Moore's goal, Carlson's fourth at 7:01 of the second made it 3-1. Niskanen added his third goal of the season at 4:25 of the third. Backstrom added his eighth goal, an empty-netter, in the game's final minute.
The win was Washington coach Barry Trotz's 737th. He's now in fifth place on the career list, passing Lindy Ruff.
"I've lost my hair. I've turned gray. I've gotten old," Trotz said.
Trotz, who is in his fourth season coaching Washington after spending 15 seasons with Nashville, feels fortunate to have lasted so long.
"My first year, I just wanted to get through the whole season and not get let go," Trotz said. "I'm blessed to be standing here, a lot older."
NOTES: Johansson was applauded by the crowd after a video tribute in the first period. "It feels a little weird," he said before the game. "It's going to be a fun one and a special one for me, and I think something I'm going to remember for a while afterwards." ... Washington F Andre Burakovsky was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. ... The Devils acquired G Eddie Lack from Calgary for D Dalton Prout. Lack will report to Binghamton of the AHL.
Devils: Visit St. Louis on Tuesday night.
Capitals: Visit Carolina on Tuesday night.
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