BOSTON – Alex Ovechkin is off to a fast start, and so are the Washington Capitals.
The two-time defending NHL Most Valuable Player had two goals and an assist, and Jose Theodore stopped 19 shots to lead Washington to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in the season-opener on Thursday night.
“If you give him too much time to shoot, he will make you look bad,” Bruins defenceman Dennis Wideman said. “He is the hardest-working and hardest-hitting superstar in the league. He is the Rafael Nadal of hockey, and (Sidney) Crosby is (Roger) Federer.”
Brooks Laich added two goals and an assist, Nicklas Backstrom had three assists, and Alexander Semin had two for Washington, which had not won in Boston in regulation in 14 tries since 2000.
“If you could bottle that game up, we’d take it,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Every night.”
The Capitals led 2-0 after Ovechkin’s goal in the second, when he took a drop pass from Semin and wristed it past Tim Thomas.
“They pushed on us hard,” Ovechkin said. “We played great defensively in the second period and we made that push and bounced back. That second goal was big.”
Washington put the game away with a pair of goals in the first 1:57 of the third period, when Laich scored on a power play before Ovechkin shrugged off Milan Lucic and beat Thomas again to make it 4-0.
“We had too many good players probably at their worst,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “You don’t want to take credit away from him, but you also want to expect more of your players, especially when he’s on the ice.”
Thomas, the defending Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie, made 30 saves.
The teams each won their division last season before being dumped out of the playoffs in the second round: Boston by Carolina, and Washington by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We wanted to beat them,” Ovechkin said. “We want to be on top of everybody.”
The Bruins team that had 116 points last year – the most in the Eastern Conference – shipped away leading goal-scorer Phil Kessel this summer. And it looks as though they haven’t found a way to replace the offence.
Only Patrice Bergeron’s goal with 12:04 left in the game kept Theodore from his 29th career shutout.
“This is not the same team you’re going to see on the ice night after night. That I can guarantee,” Julien said. “As a home opener, it’s certainly not what you want to demonstrate. We have a chance to redeem ourselves soon. Hopefully the guys take advantage of that.”
NOTES: Julien is the reigning coach of the year. Boudreau won it in 2008. … Former New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau rode the Zamboni between periods as part of the preparation for his show “Sports Jobs,” which will air on Versus in December. … Washington’s last regulation victory in Boston was Dec. 2, 2000. The Capitals went 3-0-1 against the Bruins last season. … Bobby Orr (1970-72) and Wayne Gretzky (1980-87) are the only players to win more than two straight Hart Trophies as the league MVP. … Theodore lost his stick for much of the first 2 minutes of the game, but the Bruins were unable to capitalize.