Caps outslug Devils in home opener

Playing the first meaningful game on Verizon Center ice after the team’s stunning first-round elimination in last year’s playoffs, the Washington Capitals returned Saturday night for the team’s home opener, turning in a 7-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Washington, coming off a 4-2 loss Friday night in Atlanta, broke open a 2-2 game with three goals in a five-minute span late in the second period, two of them coming from Alexander Ovechkin. The Capitals‘ seven goals were the most the franchise has scored in a home opener since 1983, and chased future Hall of Fame netminder Martin Brodeur from the net in the process, to the delight of the red-clad sellout crowd of 18,398.

Capitals rookie John Carlson — who grew up in New Jersey and rooted for the Devils as a youngster — also scored a goal and had two assists, giving the defenseman his first multipoint game in his brief NHL career.

But the lopsided score also set up an ugly finish to the contest, as the frustrated Devils engaged the Caps in four separate fights in a 10-second span late in the third period. While the first bout saw the unusual pairing of Ilya Kovalchuk — who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract in the offseason — and Washington’s star defenseman, Mike Green, it was the fourth fight sparked when New Jersey’s Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond chased down Capitals rookie Marcus Johansson and created a melee that was the talk of the Washington dressing room afterward.

“You know, we had the fewest [fighting] majors in the league last year,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We weren’t sending guys out to fight or anything, and that’s why I sent Marcus out. Purposely. … I was just mad. The guy went out there, and he was going to grab the first guy he saw. I thought it was great the way our team stood and protected each other, but I mean, that was just dumb.”

“He asked me if I wanted [to fight] at the faceoff,” Johansson said. “I said no, and he chased me down the ice.”

For his actions, Letourneau-Leblond is likely going to receive an automatic one-game suspension by the NHL for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of regulation, and new Devils coach John McLean could face a $10,000 fine.

For the Capitals, however, after Friday’s loss against the Thrashers, which Ovechkin called “embarrassing,” it was a display of the offensive prowess that put Washington atop the NHL in goals last season.

After falling behind just 1:49 into the contest following an ill-advised pass by Johansson that was intercepted by Patrik Elias and resulted in a Jason Arnott goal, Carlson answered quickly by blasting a shot past Brodeur just :35 later to tie the score.

“It was pretty cool,” Carlson said. “I watched [Brodeur] a lot growing up, and it’s definitely one of the [goals] I’ll remember.”

New Jersey retook the lead with 6:16 to play in the period, as Henrik Tallinder rifled a short-handed goal past Washington’s Michal Neuvirth, and the Devils held the one-goal edge into the intermission.

However, after the sluggish opening period, the Capitals wrestled control of the contest away in the second period, scoring four goals on just eight shots and leading to Brodeur’s benching.

Tomas Fleischmann tied the game 1:59 into the second, one-timing a blast past Brodeur to knot the score at 2. The Capitals turned up the pressure on New Jersey, and eventually, thanks to their superstar captain, they cashed in.

Ovechkin scored his first goal of the new season — and gave the Caps their first lead of the night — with a shot from the circle that was redirected past Brodeur with 5:29 to play in the frame.

Jason Chimera was issued a holding minor shortly after the go-ahead goal. However, Washington’s penalty-killers held, and just six seconds after being let out of the box, Chimera rifled a shot past Brodeur with just 1:35 left in the period for a 4-2 edge.

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About the Author
Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey

Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.

He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...

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