For the third time in a week, the Washington Capitals took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, but this time, it counted for something. Unfortunately for the Caps, it counts more for Chicago, as two late goals by the defending Stanley Cup champions led them to a 6-4 win in the season opener
After a long banner-raising ceremony honoring the Cup champs, the puck was finally dropped on a brand-new NHL season.
Emotions ran high on both benches: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, freshly back from his torch escapades in Greece; and the Blackhawks, still riding the wave of their Cup run.
The Hawks wasted no time getting on the board. Brandon Bollig scored just 4:06 into the first. But it seemed that for every goal the Blackhawks buried, the Capitals sneaked one past Corey Crawford shortly after.
And how fitting it was that the first Capitals goal scored this season was by its captain, Ovechkin, and even more apropos, on the power play, which proved to be as efficient as ever Tuesday night.
Patrick Kane scored near the end of the first; Mikhail Grabovski got one back for the Capitals. And so it went.
Brent Seabrook put the Hawks up 3-2; Grabovski deflected the first of two Mike Green power play shots to even things at 3-3.
Less than five minutes later, Grabovski deflected another Green point shot to make it 4-3 to give him his first career hat trick in his first regular season game as a Capital.
But only a few minutes later Brandon Saad got behind the Caps defense — notably veteran John Erskine — and equalized it for the Hawks. Defenseman Johnny Oduya increased the lead by one several minutes later on a goal Braden Holtby would probably like to have back, deflecting off his catching glove and slipping by him into a gaping net, to make it 5-4 Blackhawks late in the third.
The Capitals had a prime 5-on-3 opportunity late in the third period they couldn’t make good on, then another 50 seconds with a one man-advantage that yielded scoring chances but no goals. Crawford, as he has been so many times for the Blackhawks, was brilliant in killing the Caps power play.
It would be remiss to not mention the three assists Nick Backstrom had, all on the power play. Grabovski finished with three goals and an assist, and Ovechkin added an assist on Grabovski’s power play goal as well.
Despite pulling Holtby in the final minute, the Capitals still came up short to the reigning champions. Mike Green attempted a diving save in front of the empty net to thwart Marion Hossa’s scoring attempt, but the Hawks were awarded the goal.
In the end, it was a rousing opening night act. The Caps did many things right. They did many things wrong. They had a third period lead they could not hold. In the grand scheme of things, a one-goal loss to the defending champs on their home ice isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it feels like an opportunity slipped through the Caps hands in this one.