Friday, October 10, 2014

NHL: Montreal 2 Washington Capitals 1

Washington's Braden Holtby (#70) finished with 23 saves

The Washington Capitals opened their 40th anniversary season in familiar fashion last night... with a loss. Sure there's a new coach in town (Barry Trotz) and some shiny new free agents (Brooks Orpik played really well) but otherwise it was business as usual for our beloved Caps. After dominating the first period, the Capitals gave away a 2-1 (3-2) shootout victory to the visiting Montreal Canadiens (2-0-0) before a sellout crowd of 18,506 at the Verizon Center.

Although the defense looked downright stellar at times, the offense struggled after finishing the first period with a 15-2 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead on rookie André Burakovsky's goal, 6:43 into the game. Defenseman Mike Green was injured (again) and team captain Alexander Ovechkin came up empty on four shots (in addition to a key shootout miss.) At least Burakovsky (the Caps' first round draft choice in 2013) managed to make a good first impression, while centering the second line. The 19-year-old Austrian looks like the real deal; and a strong rookie campaign could go a long way towards getting the Capitals back into the NHL playoffs.

Nicklas Bäckström (#19) battles for the opening face-off 

After a scoreless second frame, Montreal evened things up on Tomas Plekanec's third goal of the season, midway through the third period. Believe it or not, it could have been a lot worse: The Canadiens had two goals taken off the scoreboard, "thanks" to instant replay. Meanwhile, both teams squandered five power play opportunities, combining to go 0-10 with a man advantage. Braden Holtby was solid in goal for the Caps (24 shots, 23 saves) but coughed up the game-winning tally to Brendan Gallagher in the shootout. Holtby's counterpart Dustin Tokarski was better, but not by much (30 shots, 29 saves.)

Former Capital Peter Bondra (r) takes a bow

Before the game, the Capitals honored former stars Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin, Sylvain Côté and Peter Bondra, which seemed to set the table for a second straight victorious home opener (the Caps topped Calgary 5-4 in a shootout last season.) Unfortunately, Bonzai couldn't stay on the ice to help the offense. Defenseman John Carlson tied Ovie for most shots, with left winger Marcus Johansson not far behind (three.) Overall, the Caps outshot Montreal 30-24. Now, if they just convert some of those...

The Caps travel to Boston to play the Bruins on Saturday night. Click here for last night's box score.