But after Washington's Tomas Fleischmann and Mathieu Perreault scored the game's first two goals early in the first period, the Devils took advantage of the Capitals' penchant for penalties and turnovers as well as a subpar effort from goaltender Jose Theodore, scoring the game's next five goals to clinch a 5-2 victory at Prudential Center.
Washington suffered its first loss in five games, and the Devils extended their winning streak to eight and pulled into a tie with the Capitals atop the Eastern Conference.
Theodore yielded five goals on the first 18 shots he faced.
New Jersey blew the game open in the second period, which began with the Capitals leading 2-1. Jamie Langenbrunner got a power-play goal to even the score. Later, a poor pass in the Capitals' offensive zone resulted in a breakaway goal for the Devils' Zach Parise. With less than a minute left in the period, Matt Halishuk netted his first NHL goal on a three-on-two. Cory Murphy's long shot early in the third gave New Jersey a 5-2 lead.
Ovechkin sat out his sixth straight game.
"He's out, but he's very close," coach Bruce Boudreau said.