Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals enjoy a beautiful Sunday off following their season-opening 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils Saturday night at Verizon Center:
Subdued Trotz: Caps coach Barry Trotz was less than pleased with his team’s execution in the season opener, in which the Caps outshot the Devils 27-24 but were outhit 32-23.
“I’ll take the result,” Trotz said. “I didn’t like our first period. It looked like our team was a little rusty and hadn’t played. (The Devils) were playing at game speed and we weren’t. I thought we were very fortunate to be up 2-0 and we gave it right back.
“… I didn’t like our overall game. Too many turnovers. It wasn’t a solid game for us, but the power play came up big for us (2-for-5) and we had a big penalty kill as well in the third period.”
Save(s) of the game: With the score tied at 2-2 and the Caps on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid made a nice stop on T.J. Oshie to keep the Caps off the board.
Seconds later Braden Holtby stayed with Adam Henrique on a clean breakaway and flashed out his right pad to keep the game tied.
“It could have been a real momentum changer if they scored there,” Trotz said.
Holtby, who had 21 saves, said he was not at his best but relied on his memory bank against Henrique.
“It helped a little bit that I had seen him before on a breakaway and that limits his options if I’ve seen one of his good moves,” Holtby said. “I think he knew that and he still made a good move, but the previous knowledge I had helped me out a little bit.”
Scoring shorthanded: The penalty kill combination of veterans Jason Chimera and Justin Williams resulted in the Caps’ first shorthanded goal of the season when Williams dropped a pass for Chimera, drove the net and saw Chimera’s return pass go off the stick of Devils forward Jordin Tootoo.
“You normally don’t try a back pass when killing a penalty,?” Williams said, “but (Chimera) called for it and it was a good heads up play by him to throw it at the net. I tried to get a stick on it but (Tootoo) beat me to it.”
Chimera also picked up an assist on defenseman Brooks Orpik’s first goal as a Capital, a snap shot off a drop pass from Tom Wilson. Orpik already is halfway to this career high in goals for a season.
“The simplicity of it was nice,” Chimera said. “When we have three guys working down low you can use your points. It was a long time coming for Brooks.”
Fourth line troubles: The Caps’ fourth line of Brooks Laich (minus-1), Michael Latta (even) and Sean Collins (minus-1) got off to a rough start. After Orpik scored to give the Caps a 2-0 lead, Trotz sent his fourth line out for the center-ice faceoff and they allowed a goal.
“They have to be (even or plus) or they’re not a good fourth line,” Trotz said. “That’s plain and simple. The reason I put them out there is because I thought they were outperforming another line. They had back-to-back really good shifts, I put them out a third time and they get scored on.
“I want a fourth line I can trust to throw into the defensive end so you don’t have your more offensive guys starting 200 feet from the goal all the time. That’s something they’ll have to fix. If they can’t we’ll try to fix it with other personnel.”
Collins took a holding penalty that led to the Devils’ game-tying power-play goal, but also drew a pair of penalties that twice put the Caps on the power play. Latta also drew a penalty that led to Matt Niskanen’s power-play empty-netter.
By the numbers: With a goal and an assist, Alex Ovechkin now has six goals and six assists in 11 season openers. Chimera now has eight career shorthanded goals. It was his first since 2012 and it was also the first time in franchise history that the first Capitals goal of the season came while shorthanded. Jay Beagle won 10 of 14 faceoffs. Wilson and Latta each led the Caps with five hits, while defenseman Nate Schmidt led the club with four blocks. The Caps are now 7-1-0-1 in season openers at Verizon Center. They were 6-4-0 in season openers at the old Cap Centre. The Caps have sold out the Phone Booth 270 straight games.
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