Capitals Season Opener Against the Penguins Ends in a Shootout

Photo: NHL on NBC

Wednesday afternoon, the Capitals traveled up to Pittsburgh in preparation to take on the reigning Stanley Cup champions in their season opening game on Thursday, October 13th.

The Penguins, who played without their captain Sidney Crosby due to a concussion he sustained in practice last week, held some celebratory festivities before the game. In a pregame press conference earlier this week, head coach Barry Trotz said that the Capitals “Would recognize the festivities in their own way,” and he had “spoken to the Captains about it,” beforehand.

The night started with a montage of the Penguins’ highlights in their postseason cup run, followed by an introduction of the coaching staff and the Penguins skaters.  The cup was presented and the banner was raised, but the Caps weren’t on the bench.  As Barry Trotz mentioned in his pregame press conference, the Capitals sat the festivities out in their locker room, prepping for their game.

zach_sanford-washington-capitalsCaps’ rookie Zach Sanford made his NHL debut tonight, When asked about advice that he had to give Zach on his first regular season game, Trotz said “Just enjoy it, enjoy being in the NHL.

The Penguins would play without Matt Murray due to a thumb injury.  All players on the Capitals roster were present and ready to play.

Washington Capitals Starting Line-Up


The Swedish line capitalized early in the game, with everyone on the line getting a point.  Burakovsky scored 59 seconds into the game off of a pass from Backstrom and Johansson.

The Toms on both teams dropped the gloves in the midst of the first, with Wilson getting some left jabs in and Sestito getting some rights in.  The fight ended with both combatants standing.

Patric Hornqvist scored a tip-in goal off of a Kris Letang wrist shot on the powerplay.  The goal had to be reviewed, since Hornqvist’s stick was almost shoulder level.  After the review, the refs deemed it a good goal.

Near the end of the second, Malkin took the puck in undefended against Holtby and scored after the puck hit the post and the back of Holtby’s pad.  The Caps had a bad turnover that led to the Penguin’s opportunity.

The Swedish line Capitalized again early in the third with a second Burakovsky goal.

The game went to a four round shootout.  Phil Kessel was able to score on Holtby, but Ovechkin wasn’t able to convert against Fleury, leading to a Penguins 3-2 win.

The period started off with an early goal 59 seconds into the game by Andre Burakovsky.  Kris Kunitz had a breakaway but failed to convert, and the Caps quickly broke the puck out of the zone.  Nicklas Backstrom carried the puck up the boards and passed it around Daley’s stick and caught Burakovsky, who scored 5-hole with no one between him and Marc-Andre Fleury.

At 6:33 into the first period, Tom Kuhnhackl ran into Braden Holtby behind the Capitals net, resulting in a scrum involving all of the players on the ice.  Kuhnhackl would serve a two minute minor penalty for interference.  The first minute of the powerplay resulted in an Ovechkin shot that hit Fleury’s mask, and a blocked shot from the point by John Carlson, but the powerplay ended without another point for the Caps.

Tom Wilson and Tom Sestito dropped the gloves after a small disagreement on the ice, leading to a fighting major for both players.  Wilson was able to get some left jabs in on the fight but he couldn’t free up his right hand, and Sestito landed a couple right punches on Wilson.  The fight was broken up with both players still standing.

The two teams spent the next nine minutes, trading hits and zone time.  Justin Schultz got called for a high-sticking penalty with a little over two minutes left in the period.  While the delayed penalty was called, the Caps got a few good scoring chances in, but the play was finally stopped when Fleury gloved the puck down.  During the powerplay, the Caps failed to set up the half-ice offense.  The powerplay and period ended without much noise from the Caps.  Between failed passes and an aggressive Penguins penalty kill, the Capitals powerplay was shut down.

Pittsburgh put pressure on the Capitals early in the second, getting some shots and zone time the first two minutes into the period.  Former Capital Eric Fehr rang a shot off of the post on a three-on-two play about three minutes into the period, giving the Penguins the best scoring chance they had all game until that point.

6:57 into the second Period, the Penguins again had a great scoring chance, but Braden Holtby was able to reach his left blocker pad out to block Tom Sestito’s open net chance. The play ended up leading to a too-many-men penalty on the Capitals, leading to the first Penguins powerplay of the game.

While on the powerplay, Kris Letang took a wrist shot from the point, which was deflected down by Patric Hornqvist, hitting the left post and going into the net.  Because Hornqvist deflected the puck down from just below shoulder level, the goal had to be reviewed, but the refs quickly concluded that the call on the ice stood, and that the goal was good.

9:35 into the period, Kuznetsov carried the puck into the Penguins zone and passed it to Ovechkin, leading to a good scoring chance, but the play was ultimately shut down by Fleury.  The Swedish line began their shift doing the same as the first line, putting pressure on Fleury, but they lost the zone advantage.

With 5:25 left in the period, Justin Williams carried the puck into the zone and passed it across the ice to Lars Eller, who took a slapshot and hit the crossbar.  The two teams spent the next 50 seconds trading icetime, with a shot coming from Phil Kessel, and then another chance from Eller to Sanford to Schmidt, but Sanford’s pass to Schmidt was a bit behind, and the play was eventually blown dead.

Soon after, Kuznetsov took a high stick from Matt Cullen on the face-off, which went uncalled by the ref.  Kuznetsov sported a bruise on his right eyebrow for the remainder of the game.

With 1:08 left in the period, the Caps tried to break the puck out of the zone, and Oshie tipped the puck which went straight to Malkin.  Malkin had time and space against no one but Holtby, deked, and slipped the puck behind Holtby.  The puck bounced off of Holtby’s pad and slid slowly into the net.

With seconds remaining, Malkin crashed the net and grazed Holtby’s helmet.  Williams responded by tackling Malkin into the boards, resulting in a two minute roughing penalty that had 1:56 remaining in the beginning of the third period.  The second period ended with the Penguins ahead 2-1.

Early in the period, Lars Eller drew a hooking penalty against Malkin, leading to a four-on-four, nullifying the Capitals’ late second period penalty and gaining them a minute-long man advantage.  The Caps were able to work the perimeter around the Penguins penalty kill, but they weren’t able to capitalize on any plays.  The powerplay ended without any incident.

A bit under four minutes into the period, the Penguins had a two-on-one odd man break into the Capitals’ zone, but Niskanen slid on the ice to intercept the pass.  The Penguins continued to keep the puck in the zone and crash the net, getting a few chances on Holtby until the Caps could clear the puck out of their defensive zone, eventually forcing a faceoff in the offensive zone.

Andre Burakovsky got his second goal of the night with an assist from Backstrom and Niskanen.  Backstrom dropped the puck to Burakovsky, who ripped the puck into the Penguins’ net past Trevor Daley’s stick.  Burakovsky beat Fleury on the glove side.

The Caps spent the next few minutes with the momentum, putting pressure on the Penguins in their own zone, getting six scoring chances in the first ten minutes of the third period.

With about seven minutes left in regulation, Johansson chased the puck into the Penguins zone and was able to get a chance against Fleury undefended.  Fleury was able to hit the puck with a poke check, but also clipped Johansson in the skate, who fanned on the bouncing puck when he had net to shoot at.  The play ended with an offsides call by the linesman.

The Penguins began putting pressure on the Caps, working the puck in the Caps’ defensive zone and getting shots on Holtby, until Nate Schmidt had a near breakaway.  Justin Schultz was able to muscle Nate Schmidt off of the puck before he could get a shot off on Fleury.

With only 25 seconds remaining in the period, the Penguins had a three-on-two chance.  Kunitz passed it across the ice to Hornqvist who took a wrist shot, but Holtby was able to knock the puck down with his left shoulder.  Malkin made a good offensive play to knock Alzner’s stick out of the way to prevent the puck from being turned over.

With both teams tied at two goals a piece, the game went to overtime.

Kuznetsov, Oshie, and Niskanen were the starters in OT against Letang, Kessel, and Malkin.  The Penguins had a quick opportunity against the Caps, but Holtby stood on his head to shut down the offense.  Washington was quick to answer with a Backstrom opportunity that Fleury answered.

1:47 into OT, Ovechkin chased the puck to the corner and won the race.  Ovi was able to pass the puck to the front of the net to Eller, who rang the shot off the crossbar and high, going out of play.

2:02 left in OT, Alzner passed the puck across the offensive zone to T.J. Oshie, who had a backhand shot that Fleury blocked with his chest protector.  At this point into OT, the Caps led in scoring chances 5-2.

The overtime period was all Washington until the Penguins were able to control the puck, getting some offensive zone cycle time, but there were no more scoring chances to be had in the game.  Overtime ended without a goal from either team.

The shootout began with Pittsburgh shooting.  Nick Bonino, shot the puck wide to the left after slowing down and deking, trying to trip Holtby up.

T.J. Oshie was the first shooter for the Caps, and scored on a five-hole shot coming straight down the middle of the ice.

Malkin shot second for the Penguins, who was able to score against Holtby, scoring high on the glove side.

Evgeny Kuznetsov shot second for the Caps, who tried to beat Fleury on the five hole, but Fleury had the answer.

Letang shot last for the Penguins, and beat Holtby five-hole on a shot across the ice.

Nick Backstrom was able to keep the game alive by shooting five-hole across the ice, beating Fleury.

Kessel shot in extra rounds, beating Holtby, hitting the right post, and bouncing off of the inside post.  The refs briefly reviewed the shot and called it a good goal.

Ovechkin shot fourth for the Caps, and missed a backhand on the left side.  The Penguins won in a four round shootout 3-2. The entire shootout here:


Post-Game Wrap-Up
The Caps had a strong opener, but fell short in the shootout to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Barry Trotz’ post-game media session:

Zach Sanford, Matt Niskanen, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Braden Holtby meet with the media following the game:


1st star: Andre Burakovsky
2nd star: Marc-Andre Fleury
3rd star: Patric Hornqvist

By Justin Green

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