Saturday, October 9, 2010

Capitals Beat Devils in Heated Home Opener

After dropping one to the Atlanta Thrashers last night in a completely lacklustre showing, the Capitals came home to play their first regular season game at Verizon Center. The only good news out of Atlanta last evening was that Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec does not appear to be in serious condition after he collapsed in front of his net and left the game on a stretcher. The latest is that Pavelec suffered a concussion and is still undergoing tests.

So after a bummer of an opening night, the boys came home to face an even more dangerous foe in the New Jersey Devils with the "Zipline" (Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk) and legendary goal tender Marty Brodeur.  Gabby switched up his d-pairings and reunited Karl Alzner and John Carlson while DJ King, David Steckel and Tyler Sloan were healthy scratches.

The Devils lit the lamp first courtesy of fomer Nashville captain Jason Arnott. John Carlson tallied for the Caps soon after with a blast from the blue line, leaving Brodeur sprawled helplessly. Zach Parise was a chippy little bugger throughout the first (but HM still loves the kid) and who else but Alex Semin took a seat for interference. During the resulting New Jersey power play, Michal Neuvirth stonewalled a perfect shot from Parise. Zach skated off to the sin bin shortly after for tripping but his team scored again with a goal from former Sabre Henrik Tallinder. Apparently some of our boys forgot to skate on that one as there seemed to be alot of standing around letting the Devils score a short-handed goal -grumph.

With under two minutes left in the opening stanza, New Jersey lost one of their star d-men, as Anton Volchenkov left the game after taking a Nick Backstrom shot to the mouth. Yet another argument for wearing a shield as the Verizon Center crew scraped his blood off the ice.

End of first: Devils: 2 - Capitals 1

The boys quickly regrouped early on in the second period as Tomas Fleischmann lit the lamp for his first goal of the season with help from Alex Semin and John Carlson (the rookie was having quite the evening) and evened the score at 2-2. Carlson also made a spiffy last minute save on what would have been a sure-fired Devils goal from speedy Patrick Elias. Number 74 swooped the puck out of harm's way at the last millisecond - the future is looking bright for this talented rookie for sure. Meanwhile Mike Green laid a wicked hip check on a Devil who wins the in-game contest for number of "Ls" in a proper name: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond (I kid you not - goon should have won a Chipotle burrito).

With 5:29 left in the period, Alex Ovechkin conducted stick handling school against several members of  the Devils' defense corps and gave the Caps the lead with assistance from Mike Knuble and again, that Carlson kid! Jason Chimera shuffled off to the sin bin for holding with less than three minutes left in the period. Immediately upon his release, the swift skating Chimera took a cross-ice pass from Flash to score and give the Caps a 2-goal lead. And as if the roof of the Phone Booth couldn't be raised any higher, Ovi was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped on a clean breakaway and roofed one over Marty to make it 5-2 at the end of the second.

Martin Brodeur got the hook for the final period and was replaced in goal by Johan Hedberg. At 17:44 the boys went short-handed for a too many men call and Ovi served the time. No worries - Hedberg decided to do his best Brodeur imitation and play the puck, leaving the net wide open for Brooks Laich to walk in for a short-handed goal. Shortly thereafter, Jason Chimera (already sporting a shiner) dropped the gloves with frequent brawler David Clarkson - Chimera saw the worst of the brief bout. When LaBlond went to the sin bin, Eric Fehr scored a beauty of a top shelf goal and gave the boys their first power play goal of the night (and a nice 5 goal lead)!

Some of the media members alongside me remarked about the invisibility of Ilya Kovalchuk - who was the focus of the media throughout the off season due to his large contract. He was pretty much silent until the closing minutes of the final period when he dropped the gloves with Mike Green! HM has to admit I never saw that one coming - but the refs let them go for a few. Then Matt Hendricks took on Rod Pelley and seconds later Matt Bradley downed David Clarkson - scenes reminiscent of the Charlestown Chiefs. The line was crossed when LeBlond decided to goon it up and duke it out with the first Capital he saw. Unfortunately, that guy happened to be the youngest kid on the team- rookie Marcus Johansson. The Caps bench cleared out a bit as more players got involved in the fisticuffs, including Karl Alzner. LeBlond was slapped with a late instigator penalty for starting a fight with less than five minutes left in the game - he will most likely face a suspension and/or a hefty fine (as he should, big bully). In the post game press conference, Coach Boudreau said he was asking New Jersey coach John MacLean "What was he doing" as Devils players continued to brawl underneath the five-minute mark. What an ugly way to end an otherwise exciting game...
Final score: Capitals 7 - Devils 2

What a difference a day makes, huh?

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