Where The Devil Don't Stay – After admitting they had been outworked by an upstart Thrashers team in a 4-2 loss in Atlanta on Friday, the Capitals found themselves on the short end of a 2-1 count after the first 20 minutes of play in Saturday’s home opener against the Devils. As was often the case with the four goals against in Friday’s game, defensive-zone sloppiness was responsible for the first two New Jersey tallies on Saturday.
Washington battened down its hatches over the final 40 minutes, piling half a dozen unanswered tallies on a beleaguered and battered Devils team. When all the ice shavings had settled, the Caps were on the right side of a 7-2 pummeling.
Perhaps most importantly, the Capitals sent a message. They sent a similar one during the pre-season, but some folks sleep during the pre-season.
Less than a minute after the Capitals pushed their lead to a commanding 6-2 early in the third period, Washington winger Jason Chimera answered a challenge from New Jersey’s David Clarkson. It was the first of four third-period fights, the last three of which were fought in a span of just six seconds.
Chimera, Mike Green, Matt Hendricks and Matt Bradley all dropped the mitts for the Caps, who are already 20 percent of the way to matching their total of 20 fighting majors (29th in the NHL) from last season.
“I think Clarkson was looking to fight all night,” says Caps right wing Mike Knuble. “He finally found somebody to fight.
“We responded very well. We did a great job. I think we probably made a little bit of a statement after two games. I feel like we showed the league a little bit we’re not quite the same team we were. I think we have a little bit of an edge here and we’re a little harder to play against.
“We do it on the scoreboard and we can show up now if somebody wants to try and get physical and we have some players who can respond to that.”
There was actually one more fighting major doled out to New Jersey’s Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, but there was no coincidental major to go with that one. That’s because the Devils’ winger – who has as many career fighting majors (12) as he has career shots on goal – challenged Caps rookie center Marcus Johansson to what would have been the fifth bout of the final frame.
Even after having had four fights in the third, Devils coach John MacLean –coaching in his second NHL game – still hadn’t had enough. He put Letourneau-Leblond on the ice.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was seeking to defuse any further activity. He countered with Johansson, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, John Carlson and Karl Alzner on the ice. Those five players have a grand total of zero career NHL fighting majors among them.
“He asked me if I wanted to go at the face-off,” says Johansson of Letourneau-Leblond. “I said no and he chased me down the ice. I’m happy the guys stood up for me.”
Seconds after the draw, another melee ensued. Letourneau-Leblond wouldn’t take no for an answer, and he drew an instigator minor, a slashing minor, a fighting major and a game misconduct.
League rules call for an automatic one-game suspension (pending NHL review) for Letourneau-Leblond and an automatic $10,000 fine for the Devils’ bench boss.
New Jersey came to town with about a week’s worth of lunch money between their payroll and the league’s salary cap. As a result, they’re carrying only 20 players. A suspension might leave them shorthanded for their next game, a Monday night date with the Penguins in Newark.
A Pair For Eight – Tonight was Alex Ovechkin’s sixth home opener as a member of the Capitals and he has scored in all six. He tallied twice tonight, the third time he has had a pair in the opener. Ovechkin has 10 goals and a dozen points in six home openers.
Jersey Boy – Carlson, who grew up in New Jersey, had a goal and two assists on the night. Getting a goal against legendary New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur was a nice notch for Carlson’s NHL belt.
“It was pretty cool,” says Carlson. “I watched him a lot growing up and it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll remember.”
Back-To-Backs – In his AHL career, 22-year-old Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth posted a 14-3 record with a 1.77 GAA and a .938 save pct. in the second of back-to-back games when he started both ends. Last night and tonight marked the first time in his NHL career that Neuvirth has started and gone the distance in both ends of a back-to-back, and he made 31 stops to earn the third star of the game.
Neuvirth allowed two or fewer goals in 13 of those 17 back-end games in the AHL.
In A Flash –Tomas Fleischmann’s goal early in the second period evened the score at 2-2 and got the Capitals rolling. He scored his first NHL goal off Brodeur on Feb. 24, 2007.
Home Openers – Washington won its ninth consecutive home opener. The Caps are now 10-1-1 in the dozen home openers they’ve played at Verizon Center.
Tonight’s total of seven goals matched the most ever scored by the Caps in a home opener. They scored seven in an 8-7 loss to the Islanders in 1983.
Busted Beak – Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov is noted for his shot-blocking prowess, but he got his beak busted by a Nicklas Backstrom blast from near the blueline in the first period. The shot hit Volchenkov’s visor and pushed it into his nose, causing the break.
Seven O’Clock Thunder – New Jersey led 2-0 in its home opener on Friday, but fell 4-3 in overtime to Dallas. The Devils led 2-1 on Saturday before being routed. All four New Jersey goals this season have been scored in the first 14 minutes of the first period.
Bad Memories – Nine years ago in the Caps’ home opener, Washington chased Brodeur to the bench in a 6-1 win, an onslaught that led to the NHL debut that night of Scott Clemmensen. Tonight’s offensive outpouring led to the Devils debut of veteran understudy Johan Hedberg, who came on in the third period.
Brodeur was nicked for five goals on 20 shots in 40 minutes of work. Hedberg surrendered two goals on the nine shots he faced.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears opened the defense of their Calder Cup championship with a 4-3 shootout setback at the hands of the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Kyle Greentree, Steve Pinizzotto and Keith Aucoin scored for the Bears. Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby made 41 saves in a losing effort.
By The Numbers – Green led all Caps with 25:30 in ice time. He also led all skaters on both sides with six hits, accounting for a third of Washington’s team total on the night … Green and John Erskine paced the Caps with three blocked shots each … Brooks Laich has won all seven face-offs he has taken this season.