Gr8 Night – Washington won its home opener over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at Capital One Arena, winning by a 6-1 count. The Caps had all the offense they would need in the game’s first minute – Alex Ovechkin started the scoring at the 20-second mark of the first, and T.J. Oshie made it 2-0 just 26 seconds later.
Ovechkin scored twice more in the first to record his second consecutive hat trick and the 19
th regular season hat trick of his NHL career. He added a fourth goal in the second period for the fourth four-goal game of his NHL career, two of which have come at Montreal’s expense.
Let’s pause for a moment here to take stock of these achievements, with credit to Elias Sports Bureau.
· Ovechkin becomes the first player in 100 years to record hat tricks in each of his first two games of the season. Back in 1917-18 – the NHL’s inaugural season – a trio of Hall of Famers turned the trick: Cy Denneny, Joe Malone and Reg Noble.
· Ovechkin joins Hall of Famers Rick Martin (1975) and Darryl Sittler (1980) as the third player in league history to record three goals in one period in consecutive games.
· Ovechkin joins Hall of Famers Malone (1920) and Sittler (1976) as just the third player in NHL history to record three goals in consecutive periods. Both Malone and Neal did so in the same game while Ovechkin tallied three times in the third period of Thursday night’s season opener against the Senators in Ottawa, then scored three more in the first period of Saturday’s home opener against the Canadiens.
· Ovechkin started the season with 558 career goals. In netting seven in the first two games of the season, he has surpassed Guy Lafleur (560), Mike Modano (561), Mats Sundin (564) and Joe Nieuwendyk (564). With 565 career goals now, Ovechkin ranks 22
nd in NHL history. Next up on the hit parade is Mike Bossy (573).
· Six of Ovechkin’s seven goals on the season have come at even strength. He had a career low 16 even strength goals last season, and he has amassed nearly 40 percent of that total in just two games.
· Ovechkin has recorded two hat tricks in the same month for the second time in his career. He did so previously on Feb. 1 and Feb. 15, 2009.
· Nine of Ovechkin’s hat tricks have come at home, and 10 on the road. Six have come against Canadian foes, with three against Ottawa, two against Montreal and one against Toronto.
Smashing Debut – With his family in the stands looking on, Caps winger Nathan Walker made NHL history on Saturday night when he became the first Australian-national to suit up and skate in an NHL contest. The 23-year-old Walker – Washington’s third-round choice (89
th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft – made the Caps’ opening night roster in this, his fifth season as a North American pro.
Not only did Walker make history for his country, he also netted his first NHL goal late in the second period, getting a piece of Devante Smith-Pelly’s shot on Washington’s sixth goal of the game. In doing so, Walker becomes the first Capital to score in his NHL debut since Andre Burakovsky did so on Oct. 9, 2014, also against the Canadiens.
Among the other players in league history to score their first goals in the league on October 7 are Hall of Famer Stan Mikita (1959), ex-Caps pivot Bobby Carpenter (1981) and future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr (1990). After Saturday’s morning skate, Walker identified Jagr as a guy who inspired him as a kid in Australia.
Four Score – When Walker cashed in off an offensive-zone draw to score his first career NHL goal late in the second period, it gave all four of Washington’s lines at least one even-strength goal within the first five periods of the season.
Brett Connolly scored the Caps’ first goal of the season on Thursday night in Ottawa, and Ovechkin has obviously seen to it that his line has been well represented at even-strength, too. Oshie’s goal in the first minute of Saturday’s game got his line on the board, and then Walker’s goal filled out the foursome.
Helping Hands – Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov has had the hot hands in the early going, too. With assists on each of Ovechkin’s goals thus far this season, Kuznetsov has seven assists, and he leads the league in that department. Kuznetsov is also tied with his linemate for the league scoring lead.
Six of Kuznetsov’s assists have been of the primary variety.
Bookend Hat Tricks – Former Caps defenseman Karl Alzner made his NHL debut with Washington on Nov. 26, 2008 in a game against the Atlanta Thrashers at Capital One Arena. The Caps won that game by a 5-3 score, with Ovechkin notching the sixth hat trick of his NHL career.
Saturday night marked Alzner’s first return to the District since he signed with Montreal as a free agent over the summer, and once again, Ovechkin recorded a hat trick, this time the 19
th of his regular season career in Washington.
“It was classic Ovi,” says Alzner. “You give him an inch, and he can make you pay like he did tonight. It’s super impressive to see, not only what he can do, but the whole team played a good game and Ovi obviously led the charge tonight.”
Tribute to 27 – At the first television timeout of the first period, the Caps’ game entertainment crew aired a stirring video tribute to Alzner’s decade-long stay in D.C., and the ex-Caps blueliner – one of the absolute best guys in a game that’s teeming with great guys – was clearly moved by the gesture.
“It was very emotional,” admits Alzner. “It’s hard to talk about it, really, but it was nice to the reaction. Obviously a lot of time and effort went into the video, and it even has a song that I like [Eric Church’s “Springsteen”] and all of that kind of stuff. So it’s pretty cool. It just goes to show that the organization appreciated what I did.”
Only seven defensemen have played in more career games in a Caps' sweater than Alzner.
Down On The Farm – The AHL Hershey Bears opened up their 2017-18 season on Saturday night in Lehigh Valley, but the result was not positive. The Bears entered the third down just 3-2, but surrendered four goals in the final frame en route to a 7-2 opening night setback at the hands of the Phantoms.
The Bears never led, but twice evened the score before Lehigh Valley pulled away. Chandler Stephenson’s goal at 9:54 of the second came with a single assist to Colby Williams, and it tied the game at 1-1.
Hershey’s John Albert scored on a power play at 17:34 of the second, getting help from Wayne Simpson and Williams in tying the game at 2-2. But the Phantoms regained the lead just over a minute later when they scored the first of five unanswered tallies.
Parker Milner stopped 24 of the 30 shots he faced in a losing effort in the Hershey nets.
The Bears will be back in action again on Saturday when they host Binghamton at Giant Center in Hershey’s home opener.
By The Numbers – John Carlson led the Capitals with 23:08 in ice time … Ovechkin led Washington with eight shots on net and 10 shot attempts … Walker had four hits in the game to lead the Caps … Taylor Chorney led the Capitals with four blocked shots … Jay Beagle won 11 of 14 face-offs (79%), Lars Eller won 12 of 19 (63%) and Kuznetsov won eight of 13 (62%). The Caps won 41 of 67 draws (61%) on the night … Fifteen of Washington’s 18 skaters ended up with a “plus” next to their name at night’s end. The three exceptions were Andre Burakovsky, Alex Chiasson and Lars Eller, each of whom finished the game even.