- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2014

The pageantry associated with the revealing of a new banner hanging from the rafters of Verizon Center didn’t happen on Thursday, as it frequently has for the Washington Capitals in recent years. There was no black shroud greeting the fans who had arrived early, reminding them of what they had been talking about for the past five months. A look skyward only brought a yearning of nostalgia and a tinge of dejection.

For the first time in seven years, the Capitals didn’t have postseason accolades to build upon — which, all things considered, might be the best scenario for a team that hasn’t had much to celebrate in the spring. Instead, they rekindled memories from the distant past by wearing retro sweaters, inviting former greats for a ceremonial puck drop and showing highlights from previous seasons, and they gave a nod to the future by having the team mascot star in a short, gimmicky spoof of the film “Back To The Future.”

“I think we have to move on,” said Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin. “If we want to get success, we have to forget last year and move forward. This is a great day for us, and for this organization as well.”

That great day, which Ovechkin spoke about following the team’s morning skate, was spoiled by the Montreal Canadiens. Despite an early goal from rookie Andre Burakovsky, the Canadiens scored in the third period and won a five-round shootout to emerge with a 2-1 victory and spoil the coaching debut of the Capitals’ Barry Trotz.

Tomas Plekanec scored in regulation and Brendan Gallagher provided the advantage in the shootout for Montreal, which nearly had two additional goals before attempts by P.A. Parenteau and Rene Bourque in the third period were each waved off upon review.

To kick off a season-long celebration of their 40th anniversary, the Capitals wore their alternate sweaters, patterned after what the team wore in the 1970s and 1980s. They also welcomed back former greats Peter Bondra, Sylvain Cote, Craig Laughlin and Rod Langway for a ceremonial puck drop before the game, then introduced coaches and players one-by-one to a prolonged series of ovations.

Burakovsky, the victor of a competition for the second-line center role, scored his first goal 6:43 into the first period. The Capitals’ first-round draft pick in 2013, he became their 13th player to score a goal in his first game and was the first to do it since Ovechkin scored in his debut on Oct. 5, 2005.

The play unfolded quickly. Right wing Troy Brouwer, hanging back on the forecheck, poked the puck away from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban. From the left faceoff circle, Brouwer found Burakovsky alone in the slot and swiftly dished it to his center, who uncorked a slap shot from 40 feet past Montreal goaltender Dustin Tokarski.

“I just have to take this like a normal game, not something really special,” Burakovsky said before the game. “It’s something special, of course, but I’m just going to go out there and play like I can.”

Including Burakovsky’s goal, the Capitals managed 15 shots in the first period — far outnumbering the two Montreal managed. The first didn’t come until 2:24 remained before the intermission, and both were when the Canadiens were on the power play, meaning they didn’t muster a shot at even-strength until 3:07 elapsed in the second period.

Already chippy before the first intermission, the physicality escalated in the second period. Rookie left wing Liam O’Brien, signed to a contract on Monday after attending training camp on a tryout, was assessed penalties for fighting and charging after objecting to a hit by Brandon Prust and dropping his gloves.

Parenteau appeared to strike first for the Canadiens, beating Braden Holtby five-hole 9:11 into the third period before officials overturned the call because Bourque was in the crease. Tomas Plekanec put Montreal on the scoreboard just 1:20 later, using Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as screens to drive the puck past Holtby.

And though it appeared Bourque had put the Canadiens ahead with a power-play goal with roughly four and a half minutes remaining, a review showed Bourque’s shot ricocheted off the far post, never touching the net or crossing the goal line.

That sent the game into overtime, where Ovechkin had a pair of attempts blocked by defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and then watched as a breakaway attempt flew wide with 31 seconds remaining.

Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr scored in the shootout for the Capitals, who were involved in a league-high 21 shootouts last season. But Evgeny Kuznetsov, Burakovsky and Ovechkin failed, allowing Gallagher to give Montreal its second consecutive victory to open the season.

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