Wednesday, October 02, 2019

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Opening Night: Capitals 3 - Blues 2 (OT)

The Washington Capitals opened their 2019-2020 season on Wednesday night, visiting the St. Louis Blues in a matchup of the last two Stanley Cup champions.  After a fast start for the home team, the Caps clawed their way back to tie the game in the second period before putting it away mid-way through overtime to start the season on a high note.

First Period

Two problems the Caps had last season – early goals and penalty killing – rose up and bit them in the behind in the first period.  St. Louis scored on their first shot of the new season, Sammy Blais tapping in a centering feed from David Perron past goalie Braden Holtby’s blocker 53 seconds into the game.  Barely seven minutes later, on their first power play shot of the season, Alex Pietrangelo made it 2-0, one timing a feed from Justin Faulk from the left wing circle past Holtby’s glove on the far side.

Late in the first frame, Alex Ovechkin halved the lead on his first shot on goal of the season, taking a pass from John Carlson, pulling the puck past defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, and after faking a drive off his forehand, snapped the puck past goalie Jordan Binnington’s right pad at the 15:37 mark.

-- St. Louis held a 7-5 edge in shots on goal and a 14-10 edge in shot attempts.

-- Lars Eller was the only Capital with two shots on goal; Ovechkin had three shot attempts (shot, missed shot, blocked shot).

-- Nicklas Backstrom won his first five faceoffs but finished the period 5-for-7; the Caps were 10-for-14 overall

-- It seemed to be a bigger hitting game than the 12-9 edge in hits the Caps had.

-- John Carlson had a team high ten shifts and 8:43 in ice time.

Second Period

The Caps killed off an early penalty, and then they had a chance to tie the game, but Nicklas Backstrom ringed the post just over four minutes into the period.  Less than two minutes later, Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana both had chances on the same 2-on-1 rush, to no avail, both players missing the net.

The Caps did get the equalizer in the 13th minute of the period when, on a power play, Dmitry Orlov one-timed a feed from Nick Jensen from the right point that seemed to knuckle on Binnington and eluded him on the near side.  That would be the only scoring of the period.

-- The Caps out-shot the Blues, 15-8, in the period and out-attempted them, 23-12.

-- Alex Ovechkin had four shot attempts in the period (one on goal, three blocked).

-- Eleven of 18 skaters were credited with at least one hit through two periods.

-- Chandler Stephenson was 5-for-6 on draws through two periods.

-- John Carlson finished the period with 18 shifts for the night, one more than Dmitry Orlov.

Third Period

Many chances, many saves, no scoring.


Jakub Vrana put a fork in this one in the third minute of the extra session.  He started the game-ending play by circling out of the right wing corner with the puck and feeding John Carlson between the tops of the circles.  Carlson curled to the left point and fed the puck back to Vrana at the top of the right wing circle.  Vrana crossed in front of T.J. Oshie, moving right to left, and a lane opened up on the left side.  From the edge of the left wing circle he snapped a shot that Binnington got a piece of, but not enough to keep it from sneaking under the crossbar on the far side to send the Caps off as winners.

Other Stuff...

-- The win gave the Caps points in six straight season openers, going 4-0-2, two of the wins coming in extra time.  The other one was a Gimmick win against Ottawa to open the 2017-2018 season.  That season ended well.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s first period goal gave him goals in 500 career NHL games.  He is the 13th player since 1979-1980 to reach 500 games with at least one goal scored. 

-- Lars Eller had a pair of assists.  It was his 19th multi-point game as a Capital, tying Justin Williams and Joel Ward for 67th place on the all-time franchise list.  It was Eller’s third straight season recording at least one point in a season opener.

-- Ovechkin had 16 shot attempts, five on goal (seven blocked, four misses).

-- Washington finished with 58 shot attempts overall to 36 for St. Louis and out-shot them, 34-22.

-- John Carlson skated a team-high 29 shifts and 26:30 in ice time.

-- The new guys up front – Richard Panik, Brendan Leipsic, Garnet Hathaway – no shots on goal among them.

-- Dmitry Orlov scored a goal in a season opener for the first time in his career.  Last year, he went his first 16 games without a goal.

-- Braden Holtby allowed goals on two of the first three shots he faced, but then he slammed the door, stopping the last 19 shots he faced.

-- The Caps allowed 22 shots on goal, their lowest in a season opener on the road since allowing 20 against in Boston against the Bruins in a 4-1 win on October 1, 2009.

In the end…

The Caps were missing a top line forward (Evgeny Kuznetsov) and a top pair defenseman (Michal Kempny) and still went into the arena of the Stanley Cup champs on their banner-raising night and scratched out a win.  If you have a problem with that, maybe set your bar a little lower.  This could have ended ugly with the start the Caps had, but this is a veteran team, and this is what veteran teams can do when they shut out the noise and just play their game.