The Washington Capitals introduced Capital One Arena to the 2019-20 season with an overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Also, we got a dog. But the game. You’re here for the game. You’re not here for the dog. (We will talk about the dog though.)
Fourth liners Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway teamed up for a heads-up play in the Canes zone to score the opening goal of the home opener. TJ Oshie settled a wild puck right in front of James Reimer in the second period to make it 2-0 in the second period. Erik Haula got a power-play goal early in the third, then Jaccob Slavin tied the game a bit later to force overtime.
Nicklas Backstrom drew a penalty from Jordan Staal in overtime, but the Caps couldn’t convert. Then Jake Gardiner got a look and didn’t waste it.
Caps lose 3-2 in overtime.
The Carolina Hurricanes return to action Saturday night, as they travel to the District of Columbia for a tilt against last year’s Metropolitan Division winners, the Washington Capitals.
Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals
Saturday, October 5, 2019 – 7:00 PM ET
Capital One Arena – Washington, DC
Watch: Fox Sports Carolinas
Listen: 99.9 The Fan
Of course, one should expect plenty of reminders of last year’s first-round playoff series. That seven-game series – which finally concluded with a double-overtime thriller – spawned a heated rivalry. Yet, there is something else driving the animosity between these teams.
Since the NHL realignment that created the Metro Division back in 2013, the Washington Capitals have been dominant within it. They’ve finished first in the division in each of the last four years, won the Presidents’ Trophy twice during that span, and have completed the regular season with 100 points or more in each of the past five seasons.
However, it is the Hurricanes – with their young lineup, newfound willingness to spend, and recent playoff success – who were the trendy pick to win the division this year. The aging Capitals – seven of their players are now over the age of thirty – may sense that the talent gap has narrowed and perhaps even swung in Carolina’s favor.
Even setting aside the off-ice considerations, this should be a fantastic hockey game. Both teams are undefeated at this early stage of the season, and both enter the game about as healthy as possible in the NHL. The only injuries are to Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny – both are close to returning from long-term injuries sustained last season.
The Canes’ lines should look familiar to those used in the third period of the opener against Montreal. In goal, James Reimer will get his first start as Petr Mrazek rests for the second half of the back-to-back set tomorrow in Raleigh against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Andrei Svechnikov – Jordan Staal – Brock McGinn
Nino Niederreiter – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen
Ryan Dzingel – Erik Haula – Martin Necas
Warren Foegele – Lucas Wallmark – Jordan Martinook
Jaccob Slavin – Dougie Hamilton
Joel Edmundson – Brett Pesce
Jake Gardiner – Haydn Fleury
Injuries and Scratches: Trevor van Riemsdyk (shoulder)
The Caps’ projected lineup:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Lars Eller – T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin – Chandler Stephenson – Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway
Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Nick Jensen
Martin Fehervary – Radko Gudas
Injuries and Scratches: Michal Kempny (hamstring)
There’s a lot to say about this game, but let’s start here: Braden Holtby was marvelous early, when he had to be.
After being defensively solid in their first two games, the Caps had some slip-ups against the Canes’ persistent attack. This game could have been out of reach early if Holtby hadn’t stood up. That gave the Caps enough time to settle down, and they were much better after the first few minutes. It didn’t lead to a W, but it was a solid outing.
Quick suit comparison from the red carpet. Tom Wilson and Michal Kempny wore similar but distinct check suits (or was Kempny’s a Czech suit? Haha, check me out. I’m in midseason form already). If you ask me, and implicitly you are just by being here, Kempny has the edge. Wilson’s pattern is way too big. He looks like he’s wearing cocktail napkins.
Back to hockey: How about that fourth-line heat?! Garnet Hathaway got his first goal as a Cap with the help of Brendan Leipsic‘s excellent forecheck. They almost got another in the second period but for Leipsic getting too friendly with Reimer. Plus they drew penalties. Just a terrific performance all around — a big change for that part of the lineup.
Garnet Hathaway’s no-goal appears to be the correct call. Brendan Leipsic interfered with James Reimer before the shot.
The third line, meanwhile, woof. I don’t even wanna talk about it. Kuznetsov’s back next game; let’s see what happens.
TJ Oshie converted pregame intensity into on-ice results. He’s got two goals in this still-young season, starting a little duel with Vrana – at least until Ovi turns it on, but that didn’t seem like it was going to happen with Dougie Hamilton’s coverage tonight.
Okay, so the pup. The Caps got one. He’s Captain. He’s precious. He’s the center of my life and always has been, even though I didn’t know he existed five hours ago.
Tom Wilson got 2.8 games into the season without taking a penalty. Meanwhile, poor Jonas Siegenthaler is collecting PIMs with two interferences tonight. I thought both calls were legitimate, but opinions will differ.
Bummer of a loss, but here’s one observation: An unrested Caps team controlled even-strength play against a rested Canes team. Hmm. How about that.
The Caps are now off until the Stars come to town on Tuesday, at which point Kuznetsov will be back and corresponding roster moves will have been made. As for this first three-game sprint, I am very encouraged.