The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.
Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.
Here are the three stars of the game.
1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.
He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.
2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.
It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.
3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.
Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.
The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless.
Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?
In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.
It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.
Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.
Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.
The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.
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Just before the Caps turn the page on their Stanley Cup championship season and open a new campaign, they will raise a championship banner to the rafters of Capital One Arena in the home opener. We now have a date for that banner raising.
The Capitals' home opener will be on Oct. 3, but if you were hoping Washington would raise the banner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, you're going to be disappointed.
Instead, the Boston Bruins will be the Caps' first opponent at Capital One Arena for the 2018-19 season.
The Capitals opened the 2016-17 season in Pittsburgh when the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner from 2016. That was rubbing salt in the wound as not only are the Penguins Washington's biggest rival, they also eliminated the Caps in the second round of the 2016 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
The fact that the Caps had to endure that banner raising led to speculation that the NHL schedule makers would perhaps return the favor and bring the Penguins to Washington as the Caps prepare to raise their first championship banner.
Alas, that was not the case. It's totally understandable though. The Penguins need that night off so they can prepare for their home opener on Oct. 4...against the Capitals.
It is not typical that the NHL forces teams to play their rivals in a home opener during a banner raising ceremony and it should be noted that the Caps were not in Pittsburgh for the Penguins' 2017 home opener after Pittsburgh's second straight Stanley Cup. The 2016-17 season appears to be little more than a coincidence.
Still, having the Caps play in Pittsburgh the very next night seems like an odd quirk.
Seeing the Caps raise the Stanley Cup banner on Oct. 3 will be no less sweet without the Penguins in attendance. But it would have been nice.
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