WASHINGTON – From banner to blowout, the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup defense is off to a rousing start.
After watching the franchise’s first Cup banner ascend to the rafters, the Alex Ovechkin-led Capitals scored two goals in the first two minutes on the way to a 7-0 thrashing of the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. T.J. Oshie opened the scoring 24 seconds in and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the first of his two goals at 1:47 to give Washington the fastest first two goals by a defending champion in a season opener in NHL history.
“We scored right away,” Ovechkin said. “After that, they were kind of in shock.”
By midway through the second period, the Capitals chased goalie Tuukka Rask with five goals on 19 shots and ignited chants of “Back-to-back! Back-to-back!” from the fired-up crowd. That’s the chant Oshie started after the victory parade in June, and it was echoing throughout the arena four months later.
“I said it because I believe it,” Oshie said. “We got a lot of guys in here that not too long ago were raising the Stanley Cup above our head. Not a lot’s changed.”
Braden Holtby stopped all 25 shots he faced to improve to 15-2 with four shutouts against the Bruins.
The emotional banner ceremony featured montages from the Capitals’ playoff run and ensuing celebrations and a roar when Ovechkin carried the freshly engraved Cup onto the ice and skated a lap with it. Minutes after Ovechkin kissed the Cup and put it back in its box, he and his teammates blew away any concern about an emotional letdown and began making a statement that they want to win it back.
“We showed we’re not going to give a team easy ways to beat us,” Ovechkin said.
In Todd Reirden’s first game as coach, the Capitals beat the Bruins for the 13th consecutive time, this time without Tom Wilson. Washington’s top-line right winger began his 20-game suspension for another illegal check to the head of an opponent in a preseason game.
Without Wilson, the Capitals’ offense didn’t miss a beat as Ovechkin scored one of four power-play goals, Kuznetsov scored his second on the power play and John Carlson beat Boston backup Jaroslav Halak on a 5-on-3 advantage. Newcomer Nic Dowd joined the fun with a spinning back-hander, and Lars Eller added the exclamation point with the seventh of the night.
The Bruins were not pleased by Eller’s celebration, and winger Brad Marchand instigated a fight with him soon after.
“His celebration was unnecessary,” Marchand said. “He took an angle in front of our bench and celebrated in a 7-0 game. So I just let him know.”
Rask fell to 1-11-5 in his career against the Capitals with a 3.30 goals-against average and .889 save percentage that are each the second-worst of any opponent.
“I’m out there to give us a chance,” Rask said. “It didn’t happen today. Three soft goals, you’ve got to look in the mirror and go fix it.”
Only two goals came against Halak, whose presence on banner night in Washington was poetic after his performance for Montreal in the 2010 playoffs ended one of the Capitals’ previous best chances to win a championship.
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
In Toronto, Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the game in overtime and John Tavares scored his first goal for the Maple Leafs to help Toronto beat Montreal.
Ducks 5, Sharks 2
In San Jose, John Gibson made 31 saves, Brandon Montour scored the tiebreaking goal with 11:58 to play and Anaheim spoiled Erik Karlsson’s debut with the Sharks.
Canucks 5, Flames 2
In Vancouver, rookie Elias Pettersson scored on his first shot in his first NHL game as the Canucks beat Calgary.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5