The Washington Capitals began their 2011-12 campaign with a thrilling overtime win over the pesky Carolina Hurricanes before a sell out crowd at Verizon Center on Saturday night. Good start for the guys in red, it’s always nice to start a season with 2 points right away, but there were a few things that concerned me throughout the course of the game.
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I did not watch the whole game. I worked until 8 and did not get to watch the game until the third period. But what I did see, gave me reasons to be hopeful, and a little nervous with this team going forward. I thought the intensity that I saw was right on par with what opening night should be. I was fortunate enough to be sitting two rows behind the player’s benches at the Baltimore Hockey Classic with my son and my father (how great is that) and saw a preseason hockey game that looked like preseason hockey. The atmosphere for that game was great, but it was still preseason.
From what I saw from the Caps last night, they were more then ready to start the new season in an attempt to make amends for what any fan could consider, an early exit from last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. But when it mattered, the same old problems for the Capitals crept up, and almost cost them a shot at an opening night victory.
After taking a 2-1 lead after two periods, the Capitals defense wasted no time in relinquishing the lead as Eric Staal scored just 18 seconds into the third period on the power play. The rest of the period was a classic game of back and forth until the Caps were able to break free on a 5 on 3, as Brooks Laich tallied with 3:45 left to go in the game. You had to figure they were on their way to a regulation victory right? Wrong.
Carolina pulled their goalie, and with the 6 on 5, Jussi Jokinen scored with just over a minute left to once again bring the game to a draw. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the shootout. And the prospect of the first game of the season going to a shootout haunted me, mostly because the Caps don’t really fair to well in them. But, after a Carolina penalty, Mike Green fired a shot from the point that squibbed through Brian Boucher’s five hole for the game winner.
Not a pretty game, but two points are two points, especially in the season opener. The Caps take to the ice again on Monday night against the team that eliminated them in four games last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning. I’m off on Monday, so you can bet that I will watch this one from start to finish.