"It's the excitement level that he brings and the energy that he brings to the table that wasn't there," Brodeur said. "Usually when Ovechkin is carrying the puck, it doesn't matter what building he plays in, everybody is looking for him to do something spectacular and it's tough to play when you have to look at him all the time and wonder what is he going to do next? It's tough for everybody because he's such a good player. So not having him, we'll take it. We dodged one bullet."
Ovechkin watched with fellow scratches Eric Fehr and Brian Pothier as his team tried to play a patient and controlled game without him. The Capitals did just that for 50 minutes, but they came undone in the last 10 and committed three penalties that led to two decisive power-play goals by New Jersey rookie Niclas Bergfors.
The Caps said Ovechkin wouldn't do any interviews with print or online media in the press box, but after he finished a between-periods interview with Joe Beninati on Washington's local TV broadcast, No. 8 smiled as he said, "Soon you are going to see me again, soon."
"Maybe it changed the game a bit because you know how this guy plays," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I don't think we would have played good enough to beat them if this guy would have been in and playing at his best."
"They still have the same identity and they still like to forecheck and make plays, but it obviously makes a difference when you take a guy like that out of your lineup," Devils center Travis Zajac told NHL.com.
"Guys didn't come to play," Boudreau said. "Whether they were feeling sorry for themselves because Alex wasn't in -- I don't know. Same thing happened last year when we went into Buffalo and got smoked 5-0 when he wasn't there.
"This isn't a one man team, but those guys have got to understand that. People can get hurt at any moment."