- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

NEW YORK — It was a goal that only could have been scripted on Broadway, with thousands of wildly cheering fans providing a perfect backdrop as the newly crowned team leader put the home team on top.

Jaromir Jagr spoiled the Washington Capitals season opener just 29 seconds after the campaign started when he scored off a wrist shot that beat Olie Kolzig and propelled the New York Rangers toward a 5-2 victory last night at Madison Square Garden.

The Caps home opener is tomorrow night against Carolina.

Jagr’s goal was the only score of the first period, and Washington’s play started to improve during the early portions of the second. Then a pair of turnovers gave New York all the opening it would need to pick up a victory.

“We expected them to come out strong with all the hype and the opening night celebration going on,” Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. “We thought we weathered that storm giving up the goal on the first shift, then [came] the turnovers and it was 3-1 before we knew it.”

Washington had tied the game 2:58 into the second when Alexander Semin scored the Caps’ first goal of the season (he also scored the club’s initial goal of the exhibition campaign) and for the next eight or nine minutes Washington was in control. The Caps slowed the game down to a pace they preferred, finishing checks forcefully.

Then defenseman Bryan Muir sent a dangerous pass up the middle and Adam Hall had no trouble knocking it down. He passed off to Blair Betts, who put a shot over Kolzig’s right shoulder to put to the Rangers up for good 13 minutes into the middle period.

“When you’ve got a team as offensive as they are, you can’t afford to give them any kind of opportunity,” Caps defenseman Jamie Heward said. “You turn pucks over at the blue line or in the neutral zone and good players are going to make you pay for it. We just made a couple bad turnovers that cost us goals. We get back in it and turnovers and penalties hurt you.”

Then it was the Brendan Shanahan show. The long-time Detroit Red Wings star, who signed as a free agent with New York during the summer, scored his 599th career NHL goal 15 minutes into the second and got his 600th early in the third to become only the 15th player in league history to reach that plateau. The Madison Square Garden throng cheered as if he had been a Ranger for his whole career instead of one game.

Jagr was the last player introduced to the fans before the game and it was announced he had been named New York’s 24th captain. Then he took an exit pass from Martin Straka, crossed the red line and curled toward the boards. He crossed the blue line and let a wrist shot go as he passed the right hash mark. Kolzig’s view was blocked by a crowd of players.

Jagr has performed for the Rangers the way Caps fans hoped he would have performed in Washington.

On the positive side for the Caps, they made just three trips to the penalty box, a huge improvement from last season and this preseason, and killed all three power plays. On the other side, Washington had eight power play chances and failed to score on any of them.

“I thought we did a good job of staying out of the box,” Hanlon said. “The obvious good sign was the penalty kill. The bad sign was we were just retreating, backing off the line, leaving too big a gap.”

Particularly disappointing was the first line — Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus and Richard Zednik, each minus-4 defensively. Ovechkin had only three shots, well below his average, and no goals.

Rico Fata for Washington and Straka exchanged late goals.

Notes — Ovechkin is purchasing eight tickets to all Caps home games and donating them to soldiers or underserved children in the District, according to a release. There is also some Ovechkin (and Sidney Crosby, Jean Beliveau and Rocket Richard) memorabilia available via auction on auctions.nhl.com. The auction continues until Wednesday with a portion of proceeds benefiting the SickKids Foundation in Toronto. …

Wings Matt Bradley and Matt Pettinger were the injury scratches, while defenseman John Erskine and center Jakub Klepis were the healthy scratches as the club went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. …

Donald Brashear and Brian Pothier made their Caps debuts last night.

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