Alex Ovechkin notched his first two goals of the season and the Washington Capitals received contributions from six other scorers en route to a 7-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on opening night at Verizon Center.
The Devils headed to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead after the first only to let the Capitals score six unanswered, including a four-goal second which chased Martin Brodeur from the game. The Devils were never able to climb out of the hole and instead the game turned ugly, much to the delight of the fans. The last five minutes of the game were more of a WWE Royal Rumble than a hockey game, featuring several fights that may spill over into the next time these teams meet.
The night kicked off with an understated hoisting of the Southeast Division and Presidents Trophy Banners, and, to top it all off, an excellent pre-game video presentation. The crowd was into it from the very beginning, seemingly having forgotten the playoff failures of last season.
The feel-good win was just what the fans, and players, needed: a reminder that, while they have room to improve, the Caps are without question a legitimate contender.
Some More Observations:
- It’s a safe bet that D.J. King will be in the lineup next time the Caps play the Devils. The third period featured five fights including a pointless but entertaining bout between Illya Kovalchuk and Mike Green in which zero punches were landed. By the end of the game both benches were practically empty thanks to all the game misconducts.
- The Capitals’ penalty kill was outstanding all night. There were several articles written over the summer about how Bruce Boudreau was changing the scheme to be more aggressive, and tonight they did a much better job of limiting New Jersey’s space.
- John Carlson racked up a three point night including a goal via a beautiful wrister that beat Martin Brodeur high glove side. With the talent around them, Carlson and Green may be among the top-five defensemen in points for years to come. No pressure, kid.
- I’m not saying Brodeur is done, but he’s 38-years old and probably stops at least two or three of the goals he let in tonight during his prime. Carlson’s in the first and Jason Chimera’s in the second immediately come to mind. How long until anyone within the Devils organization even hints that he has possibly lost a fraction of a second of reaction time?
- Marcus Johansson has only played six periods of professional hockey in North America so the book on him is far from complete. What’s immediately clear is that his speed and strength on the puck are fantastic. Rookie mistakes like coughing up the puck to lead to New Jersey’s first goal come with the territory of starting a 20-year old in the NHL.
While this game has little bearing on what will happen in the end, nights like these are still important in the sense that the way the team plays now will carry over to when it really counts. Also, with the home team racking up seven goals, a third period that included copious amounts of violence and two goals by the captain, it was a fun night of hockey for the red-clad fans. Bring on the rest of the season.