BOSTON | Sign up Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau for 81 more of those.
The Caps opened the 2009-10 campaign Thursday night with a 4-1 throttling of the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on the strength of a stout defensive effort and a pair of goals from both Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich.
“If you could bottle that game up, we’d take it every time,” Boudreau said. “We weathered the storm in the first six or seven minutes, and they had that goal called back [Boston’s Shawn Thornton scored after a quick whistle]. And after that I thought we played really, really well.”
Laich gave the Caps the lone tally of the first period at 17:15. Nicklas Backstrom received a diagonal pass from Ovechkin in the right circle and sent one of his own to Laich near the left post. After first trying to put the puck in with a forehand attempt, Laich recovered to flick in a backhand for the first goal of the NHL season.
He added the Caps’ third goal of the night with the team again on the power play. As Boston goalie Tim Thomas searched for a loose puck underneath him, Laich swooped into the blue paint and swept a shot into the net.
“You’ve got four or five sets of eyes on Alex, so you are able to slip in behind guys,” Laich said. “With Alex, you know the puck is going to get to the net - somehow it is getting to the net. I know what my role is on the power play. I think my two goals might have been from a combined two feet out from the goal line.”
Ovechkin put Washington in front 2-0 in the middle period. Alexander Semin left him the puck with a nifty behind-the-back drop pass at the top of the circles, and the two-time defending goal-scoring champion ripped one past Thomas, the defending Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie.
Ovechkin added another marker early in the third period, less than two minutes after Laich’s second. They were Ovechkin’s first goals on opening night since his rookie season. Last year he got off to a slow start but still managed 56 goals and 110 points. He had only two goals through the team’s first 13 games - two of which he missed to spend time at home in Russia with his ill grandfather.
This night also was a much better start to the season for goalie Jose Theodore. He was pulled from his first game in a Washington uniform in last year’s opener, a 7-4 loss to Atlanta.
Theodore also harbors ill memories from the end of last season. His final start of the season was Game 1 of the first-round series with the New York Rangers. After Theodore yielded four goals in that contest, Boudreau tabbed Semyon Varlamov for the final 13 playoff games.
“It feels good,” Theodore said. “Redeem is a big word. I don’t really like that word, because you still have to look at last year as a whole season. But let’s just say I was anxious to get back on the ice.”
Boudreau named Theodore his No. 1 goaltender before training camp, and the 13-year veteran earned the start Thursday with his play in the exhibition season. Before the game, Boudreau said Varlamov would start the home opener Saturday against Toronto.
Theodore had plenty of help from the guys in front of him. After the Bruins controlled play early, the Caps put the clamps on Boston’s deep and talented collection of forwards.
The Bruins had 20 shots but only 10 in the final 47 minutes and three in the third period.
“They were obviously going to come out extremely hard with a lot of emotion,” defenseman Brian Pothier said. “I thought we sort of weathered that storm and, once we settled in and did our thing and played our game, I thought we gave them nothing in the neutral zone and defensively we played really well.”
Note - Center Michael Nylander and defensemen Jeff Schultz and Tyler Sloan were healthy scratches.