The Washington Capitals went into Edmonton hoping to become only the sixth team in the history of the National Hockey League to start a season 8-0. Sixty minutes of hockey later, those hopes were dashed by a young, upstart Oilers team and some questionable officiating.
The Caps got an early goal from defenseman Karl Alzner who ripped a Jason Chimera feed past Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin just five minutes into the game. Things were looking good for the Caps, but unfortunately, an easy victory was not in the cards this evening.
Late in the first period, with Roman Hamrlik in the penalty box for hooking, the Oilers showed off some of the offensive firepower that will make them a force in the league in a few years. Two laser-sharp passes from Corey Potter and Jordan Eberle left Taylor Hall undefended on the goal line with the puck, which he promptly deposited past a diving Tomas Vokoun to even the score at one.
Capitals penalties would prove to be their downfall as the Oilers’ Jordan Eberle scored the game-winning goal 40 seconds into a Troy Brouwer penalty, one of five the Caps took in the second period.
Although there is not a whole lot to like about this game, it is important to keep a few things in perspective. While 82-0 would have been amazing, it is just not a reasonable goal: there are going to be a few losses this season, this just happened to be the first one. More importantly, even in an “off” game, it is easy to see that the Caps are ridiculously talented, and a lesser team might have had a much worse result.
Penalties. Ugh. The Capitals were called for nine penalties in the game, five of them in the second period alone, during one of which the Oilers scored the game winning goal. Blaming the officiating only goes so far – the Caps have to be more disciplined and not put themselves in the position to have those penalties called against them.
Too little too late. The Caps came out flat in the first and second periods, something that has seemingly plagued them since last season – critics accused the team of only playing hard for a period or two. By the time it looked like the Caps really came to play against the Oilers it was already the third period and too late.