Capitals Struggle Early, but Top Carolina 4-3 in Overtime

From the beginning of the broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet, one could tell that the Washington Capitals, a seasoned team of veteran players, were having a case of stage fright. Opening night with another banner hanging from the rafters seemed to be bringing a few butterflies to the forefront and the action reflected that.

A scoreless first period that featured two Washington power plays that yielded little in the way of momentum or good scoring chances, was only matched by 5 on 5 play that could be considered lackluster at best. You would think that a team with such a highly skilled set of players would be beyond these types of opening night jitters, but evidently it matters little how long you have been in the game because it affects both young and old alike.

Carolina would have no such problems when they were afforded power play opportunities and actually put Washington behind for the first time this season when Eric Staal finished what was a simply marvelous passing play that left Capitals players spread out all over the ice, each looking at the other and wondering what happened. What happened was they were out skilled by a less talented team and found out that you need to bring the A game every night you come to the rink.

Luckily the lead did not last long as Alex Semin caught the Carolina defense napping and took a rink length pass from Joe Ward and raced down the ice on a breakaway. Being one of the best puck handlers in the league, Semin faked Brian Boucher out of his socks and potted a backhander to make it 1-1. The Capitals would then grab their first lead of the season late in the second when Jason Chimera used his lightning like speed to get down the ice and flick a top shelf wrist shot over the bewildered Boucher to make it 2-1 Caps.

Fans hoped that going to second intermission that the defensive minded Caps of a year ago would hold the lead and claim victory. Ah, but a questionable late delay of the game penalty gave the Hurricanes another power play and there was that guy Staal again, waiting on the doorstep to the right of Michal Neuvirth and put in a tough angle wrist shot to tie it at 2.

It looked like the game would head to OT as ten minutes more of play yielded little in the way of scoring chances. Then the zebras got involved and whistled the Canes for two penalties back to back, giving the Caps a 5 on 3 advantage. Washington has far too much skill to give them that kind of chance and Brooks Laich made the Canes pay with a power play marker, taking a rebound off a deflected Alex Ovechkin shot.

Game over one would think, but the Canes showed resolve and netted a tying goal with under a minute to go and the goalie pulled. It indeed was overtime and the Hurricanes also got a power play to start, when Alex Semin was whistled for boarding. Neuvirth saved the Caps bacon with two sparkling saves to stop Carolina from opening the season with a loss for Washington. His saves set the stage for a power play winner for the Caps though.

As Semin was about 30 seconds from getting out of the box, Carolina was whistled for a penalty, putting the Caps on a 4-3 advantage. It took them all of 45 seconds of that advantage to end it, as Mike Green rocketed a shot from the point that hit a Carolina shin pad and redirected the shot five hole on Brian Boucher. The Verizon Center rocked the red as the Caps celebrated a win on opening night and look forward to a rematch of their playoff dispatchers last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on Monday.

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