It’s tough to say what looked sharper at the Verizon Center on Saturday night, the Washington Capitals brand new red RBK uniforms, or the team that was in them. For the second night in a row, the Capitals steam-rolled their competition, and handed the Carolina Hurricanes a 2-0 defeat that was much more convincing than the final result indicated.
Alex Ovechkin got both the first goal of the game, and his first of the season, when he opened the scoring at 14:54 of the first period. Victor Kozlov picked up a loose puck in the corner (in his own end), and skated the entire length of the ice with it. He broke into the Hurricanes zone, dropped a pass to Ovechkin as he broke for the net, and Ovechkin fired it into the bottom left corner of the net.
Ovechkin and Kozlov skated with Tomas Fleischmann all night as the Capitals tried to set their top two lines with Alexander Semin back in the line-up.
Semin didn’t show any signs of the ankle injury that kept him out of the game the night before against Atlanta. He skated on a line with Michael Nylander and rookie Nicholas Backstrom, and though they weren’t quite dominant, they were effective, and scored the Capitals second goal of the game.
Washington was on a power play, and Backstrom and Semin were playing ‘keep away’ in the Hurricanes zone. Semin fed a pass back to Jurcina at the point, and he immediately fired a shot on goal. It looked like the shot was tipped on the way in by Nylander, but the official score line was Jurcina from Semin and Backstrom at exactly the five minutes mark of the second period. Regardless of the actual scorer, the Caps had their second goal and a two goal lead.
The Caps went into a bit of a shell in the third period and just defended. They only managed four shots on goal, after putting up an amazing 29 shots in the first two periods. Carolina on the other hand, managed twelve shots in the third after only being able to muster eleven in the first two. As Caps fans have seen for the last nineteen years, Olie Kolzig did the rest.
Kolzig earned his 35th career shutout, and obviously his first of the season as it was his first appearance. For two periods, it looked as though it was going to be one of the easiest shutouts that Kolzig had ever posted, but he earned it in the third. His best save of the night came with just under seven minutes to go, when he did the splits coming across the net on a two-on-none and just got his toe on the shot.
Time after time, Kolzig turned away the Hurricanes and eventually, the clock just expired and the Caps were victorious.
The win in the Southeast Division battle gave Washington their first 2-0 start since 2002/2003. It’s a little early to be drawing too many conclusions, but this year’s Capitals team just feels different. They actually look like they can score at almost any time, and with five twenty-five goal scorers, it can come from almost anywhere.
So far, there haven’t been any signs of trouble with team chemistry either; put that down to good coaching. Glen Hanlon has his team playing cohesive hockey right out of the gate – that’s impressive. Always quiet and unassuming, he’s the perfect bench boss to lead this team to bigger and better things – like the playoffs.
It’s early to be penciling them into the final eight, but it’s not too early to have a bit of hope. A little swagger of confidence never hurts a hockey team either.
Notes: Ovechkin lost a tooth in the Thrashers game on Friday night, and looks a lot more like a good old-fashioned hockey player. Eddie Shore would be proud. His goal on Saturday was both his 99th career goal and 200th career point. He has achieved both marks quicker than any Capital in the history of the franchise; in fact, only Sidney Crosby has reached the 200 point plateau quicker amongst active NHL players.
Kolzig had a shutout in his second last game of 2006/2007, so he has actually earned a shutout in two of his last three games.
Backstrom was credited with an assist on the Caps second goal, giving him points in his first two NHL contests. Not a bad start for a rookie nineteen year old.
Saturday was Washington’s SIXTH consecutive home-opening win. They have not lost a home-opener since the Los Angeles Kings beat them on opening day in 2000/2001.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway