January 22, 2022

Washington Capitals Game 1 Recap: Ovechkin’s beauty gives Caps win on opening night

Beaten badly by a New Jersey forward just moments earlier, Alex Ovechkin retrieved the puck deep in the Washington zone, and quickly entered New Jersey territory. On the first night of his second decade in the National Hockey League, Ovechkin added to his already-legendary highlight reel with a marker that sent the sellout crowd at Verizon Center into delirium.

Ovechkin’s goal with 13:27 left in the third gave Washington a lead that they would not relinquish, as the Capitals opened the season with a 5-3 win over the Devils on Saturday night in the District.

Two goals 2:28 apart, past the midway point of the first gave the Caps an early lead. Tough as it may be to replicate a playoff atmosphere in October, those in attendance did not hold back in their revelry as Jason Chimera scored a crucial shorthanded goal to open the scoring. That was followed by Brooks Orpik’s first goal in 93 games in a Washington uniform, with a pinpoint-accurate rifle from the high slot.

Orpik’s goal came after a few weeks of limited activity after undergoing wrist surgery in July. “It was fun to get a game in after practicing for four or five weeks,” he said. “That was getting a little old so it was fun to apply it to game situation … Willy [Tom Wilson] made a great play, kind of held onto it for an extra second, let the one guy get out of position and [open] him up. He made the whole play, it was a pretty easy spot for me.”

New Jersey, a consensus bottom-two pick in the Metropolitan Division heading into the season, answered right back with an Adam Henrique tally in close – 22 seconds after Orpik’s goal – and a slapshot on the power play later in the frame from Eric Gelinas to tie it.

Ovechkin’s dazzler in the third helped to open the floodgates. Dangling past Devil defenseman John Moore right above the left circle, Ovechkin went backhand-forehand right before depositing it just under the crossbar and above the shoulder of New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid.

Chimera called it a “world-class goal by a world-class player.” Those in attendance were in awe the first time they saw the goal, but were audibly shocked when the replay showed up on the Jumbotron – more than once, of course. Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said that “nothing surprises [him]” any more when it comes to Ovechkin’s goals, and said that although he was a “non-factor” early, “when he gets a guy one-on-one, there’s a good chance he’s going to create something out of it.”

Matt Niskanen scored an empty-netter on the power play with 2:53 remaining served as the exclamation point. New Jersey added one more from Mike Cammalleri with an extra skater with less than two minutes left to provide for the final margin.

“I’ll take the result. I didn’t like the first period. We looked like a team that was a little rusty, hadn’t played, and we weren’t playing at game speed,” Trotz said.

“Just a real choppy game,” Justin Williams said. “Certainly nobody’s in midseason form … after the first period, the energy was there. I thought we slowly took the game over. Definitely a lot of things to clean up, no perfect game by all means.

“We need to clean up our wall play, clean up the coverage in our zone, clean up the last couple minutes of the game,” he said.

Tom Wilson took a puck off of his skate late in the second period and was slow to get up and return to the bench before heading down the tunnel and into the dressing room. He returned for the third period and is fine, according to Trotz.

About Eric Hobeck

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Capitals. Eric contributes to high school sports coverage at InsideNova.com. He served as sports editor of The Rotunda at Longwood University for two years, where he was also the men’s basketball beat writer. He hosted a campus radio show for three years and called basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

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