WASHINGTON – The night began for the Washington Capitals with a celebration of their accomplishments of last season, when they led the NHL in wins, points and goals.
Then, after a slow start, Alex Ovechkin and his teammates stirred up memories of a year ago.
Ovechkin beat Martin Brodeur on a penalty shot to complete Washington’s four-goal second period, and the Capitals got 31 saves from Michal Neuvirth in a 7-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Ovechkin finished with two goals and an assist. John Carlson had a goal and two assists for Washington, which won its ninth straight home opener—a streak that began with a victory over New Jersey in 2001.
The Capitals scored in a variety of ways: even strength, short-handed, on the power play and with a penalty shot.
“It’s good to score any way,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Scoring goals is probably what we do best, and we want to make teams aware of that.”
Jason Arnott and Henrik Tallinder had goals for the Devils, 0-1-1 under first-year coach John MacLean.
“When you lose like this, it’s a team effort. It’s not just one or two people,” MacLean said.
After being held scoreless, New Jersey sharpshooter Ilya Kovalchuk traded punches with Capitals defenceman Mike Green with 4:17 to go. It was the first of several fights in the closing minutes between the teams that had the best records in the Eastern Conference last season.
“They’re frustrated because they’re a proud team,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know if they’ve been beaten like that for a while.”
Before the game, banners commemorating Washington’s first Presidents’ Trophy (for most points) and third straight Southeast Division championship were lowered from the rafters. Unfortunately, a first-round loss to Montreal in the playoffs deprived the Capitals of their ultimate goal: the Stanley Cup.
Playing with much the same roster, Washington hopes to get it right this season. The quest began Friday night with a loss in Atlanta, but the Capitals looked much better in this one.
“I think (Friday) night was embarrassing for us. I think everybody played bad,” Ovechkin said. “Tonight we moved our legs, finished our checks, played better in the neutral zone and defensive zone.”
A goal by Tomas Fleischmann at 1:59 of the second period tied it at 2, and Ovechkin gave Washington the lead for good with his first goal of the season, a wrist shot from the left circle at 14:31. Jason Chimera scored at 18:25, a drive that whizzed under Brodeur’s right arm, and less than a minute later Ovechkin was awarded a penalty shot after being taken down on a dash to the net.
Ovechkin skated far to his left, moved back toward the middle and lifted a shot past Brodeur from the right side for a 5-2 lead.
“I think I had a couple chances, a couple penalty shots against Marty and you never know what he’s going to do,” Ovechkin said. “So I just made a simple move and the puck goes in. I was pretty happy.”
Brodeur didn’t return for the third period. His replacement, Johan Hedberg, fired an errant clearing pass during a New Jersey power play that was intercepted by Washington’s Brooks Laich, who turned the miscue into a short-handed goal.
A power-play goal by Eric Fehr with 8:33 left completed the scoring.
New Jersey took a 1-0 lead at 1:49 of the first period when Arnott, 35, tipped in the rebound of a shot by 35-year-old captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The second assist went to 34-year-old Patrick Elias,
Thirty-five seconds later, the 20-year-old Carlson tied it with a sizzling slap shot from just inside the blue-line.
Carlson, a New Jersey native, said of the goal: “It’s pretty cool. I watched (Brodeur) a lot growing up, so it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll remember.”
A short-handed goal by Tallinder at 13:44 put the Devils back in front, but the lead disappeared soon after the first intermission.
“We played a solid first period and a solid start to the second,” Langenbrunner said. “Then we got away from it a little, and they’re an extremely talented team and took advantage of it. … Those nights are going to happen. It’s a little shocking it happened tonight.”
NOTES: Play was stopped late in the first period when New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov was struck in the face by a shot off the stick of Nicklas Backstrom. He dropped to his knees while bleeding, and didn’t return after being diagnosed with a broken nose. … Ovechkin has scored at least one goal in each of his six home openers.