- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 10, 2015

The last introduction is reserved for the foremost presence. So, Alex Ovechkin, with his tinted shield and weaponized hands, was the final name said Saturday night when the new Washington Capitals‘ season began. The Capitals‘ captain hopped onto the ice, the full arena roared. Since Ovechkin is upright, the odds of him doing something eye-popping were high. It’s almost expected.

Hours before the Capitals‘ 5-3 opening-night win against the New Jersey Devils, Ovechkin walked the red carpet outside the arena in a blue suit and swaying red pindot tie. His perpetually mussed hair, matted postgame from a helmet and sweat, was counter to refined looks from teammates. John Carlson gathered his locks into what’s become known as a “Man Bun.” Tom Wilson went slicked back.

Saturday night was the start of Ovechkin’s 11th season in Washington. The first night in 2005, Ovechkin scored twice, the No. 1 overall pick of the draft delivering the rarest thing in sports: satisfaction to expectation. The Capitals won, 3-2. Ovechkin shot five times. He scored on the power play, stuck his tongue out when shown on the video board, dropped to a knee in celebration after his first goal.

“I feel my dreams come true,” Ovechkin said at the time. “I play in the NHL. First game, we win.”

Piling up goals, despite operating in an increasingly scoring-restrictive league, has caused Ovechkin’s puck-dancing marvels to be almost be viewed as his standard. What he did Saturday night is inconceivable for many. Zooming down the left side, Ovechkin slipped the puck between his legs from behind to lose Devils defenseman John Moore, pulled it back to his front side, then flipped a go-ahead, top-shelf goal past Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid. The score put the Capitals in front 3-2 in the third period, and, yet again as goal No. 476, was a reminder of his lethal offensive conduct.

“That’s what the fans pay their money to see,” Jason Chimera said. “Just a world-class goal by a world-class player, for sure. A lot of guys would fall down if they tried that kind of stuff.”

Chimera’s comment was as flamboyant as it would get about Ovechkin’s goal, which is his normal, and the normal’s unattainable. Repetition has caused smoothing of reaction. Was anyone surprised? Well, no. Chimera allowed he is still “kind of awestruck,” but the one-on-one goal from Ovechkin was otherwise met with the fervor of being handed a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. It was nice, and satisfying, and hit the spot. Having enjoyed it so many times prior downgraded it from delectable, not that anyone’s complaining.

Ovechkin launched a heavy slapshot seven minutes later on the power play. It felled the blocking Moore — “Ovi almost killed a guy on the one shot,” Chimera said — which allowed Ovechkin to wind in from the left side with multiple chopping stick-handle moves. He zipped a pass between a defender’s spread legs and directly onto Marcus Johansson’s tape; 4-2, Capitals. An empty-net goal and late-game defensive dysfunction produced the final score.

A 2-0 Capitals lead in the first period was not based in substance. Chimera scored a short-handed goal, the first of its kind to be the opening goal in franchise history, and Brooks Orpik came in from pasture to produce his first goal as a Capital. It took him more than 1,705 minutes of ice time to accomplish the task in the D.C.

New Jersey tied the score by the end of the first period, and held a hefty lead in shots on goal, 11-6.

“They were playing at game speed, and we weren’t,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought we were very fortunate to be up 2-0, and we gave it right back. Probably justice, if you will, because I didn’t think we deserved to be up 2-0.”

A more benign second period followed the four-goal mania of the first. The Devils survived a 5-on-3 in the period. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby held off a breakaway attempt from Adam Henrique. His three goals allowed undermines the amount of bacon-saving he performed.

“There’s still stuff we want to work on,” Holtby said.

After the first period, two Mighty Mites teams spilled onto the ice. Per usual, braking and changing directions were challenges for the youngsters. The lone scorer, who tried to go to one knee and pump a fist following his goal, was interviewed afterward. He was stumped when asked what player he wanted to emulate. A reshaping of the question helped. His favorite player? That’s easy. Ovechkin. For him, the magic has not worn off.

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