The Washington Capitals made an emphatic statement in their home opener tonight at the Verizon Center: “This is our house.” After unfurling pennants for last year’s Southeast Division Championship and the President’s Trophy, the Caps soundly beat the New Jersey Devils 7-2 in front of a boisterous sell out crowd.
The Caps bounced back from two early deficits to dominate the Devils in every facet of the game. Scoring short handed, on the power play, and even on a rare penalty shot, the Caps demonstrated their fearsome goal scoring talent, chasing veteran netminder Martin Brodeur after 40 minutes.
The Caps generated momentum early in the first period, keeping most of the action in the New Jersey end of the ice. But two early defensive lapses in the Washington zone resulted in two first period goals for New Jersey. Rookie defenseman John Carlson started the Caps scoring when he intercepted a pass during a line change and scored with a rising wrist shot from just inside the blue line.
The second period opened with the Caps down 2-1. Less than two minutes in, Alexander Semin won a battle behind the net to feed Thomas Fleischmann in front for a one-timer to tie it up, 2-2. The momentum soon shifted to New Jersey as the Devils outshot the Caps 17-8 for the period. Goalie Michal Neuvirth was up to the challenge, however, stopping all shots and leaving few rebounds.
Alex Ovechkin put the Caps in the lead for good when he lit the lamp for the first time this year coming across the middle and putting a wrist shot into the upper corner past Brodeur. Ovechkin has now scored in every home opener in his six-year career.
Four minutes later, Fleischmann hit Jason Chimera coming out of the penalty box, and Chimera beat Brodeur stick side from the right circle. On the next shift, Ovechkin picked off a cross ice pass at his own blue line and was dragged down from behind on the ensuing breakaway, earning a penalty shot. He made the Devils pay when he beat Brodeur over the glove to make it 5-2.
In the third period, Johan Hedburg replaced Brodeur in net, but quickly had trouble of his own. Brooks Laich knocked down a weak clearing attempt by the goalie while the Caps were short-handed and deposited the puck in the empty net before Hedburg could get back in position. The Caps continued to press, and Eric Fehr scored on the power play as he found open ice near the crease and beat Hedburg top shelf to make it 7-2.
The Devils’ frustration boiled over late in the game when they picked four fights on consecutive face-offs. In the fourth duel, New Jersey winger Pierre Luc LeBlond jumped Swedish rookie Marcus Johansson. Carlson and a few others came to his defense, and beat back the Devils. Carlson finished with a goal and two assists for his first multi-point game in the NHL.