WASHINGTON - JANUARY 05: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals warms up before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Verizon Center on January 5, 2010 in Washington, DC. Ovechkin was named captain of the Capitals today. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
That first game of the Washington Capitals' season? A 4-2 loss Friday night in Atlanta?
The Capitals woke up Saturday night at their home opener at the Verizon Center, chased Martin Brodeur from the net after two periods and unleashed some fury on the New Jersey Devils in a 7-2 win.
How bad of a beat-down was it? As the third period wound down, Devils' sniper Ilya Kovalchuk decided to take out his frustrations during a rare fight with Caps' defenseman Mike Green. (Let's just say both stars should stick to scoring.)
The altercations continued from there, with two more fights being the undercards for some thuggery by Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who jumped Marcus Johansson from behind and tried to goad him into his first NHL fight.
"That was just dumb," Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau said of Letourneau-Leblond's efforts.
Johansson wanted nothing to do with the Devil's advances, and it was probably for the best. The rookie hasn't mastered the basics of the NHL just yet, so he probably hasn't worked on his fighting skills.
"You know, we had the fewest fighting majors in the league last year," Boudreau said. "We weren't sending guys out to fight or anything, and that's why I sent Marcus out. Purposely. You know if we had sent an Erskine or somebody out they would have had a partner. I was just mad, the guy went out there and he was going to grab the first guy he saw."
Fighting isn't the Caps' forte. What the Capitals do best is light the lamp, and there was plenty of that going on on this night.
The Caps used a four-goal outburst in the second period to pull away from the usually stingy Devils. Two of those goals came off the stick of Alex Ovechkin -- including one on a penalty shot.
Ovechkin scored his first of the year with 5:29 left in the second to give the Caps a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Ovie picked up the puck at center ice, skated down the left wing, cut to the middle and fired a wrister past a screened Brodeur. The puck may have been redirected by a Devil who was dealing with Knuble in front.
Chimera extended the lead four minutes later. He stepped out of the box after serving a penalty and got lost behind Arnott, who was manning the point on the power play and was unaware that Chimera was there.
Chimera took a pass from Tomas Fleischmann and let a hard shot go from the right circle that blew past Brodeur on the stick side.
Ovechkin put the game away by scoring on a penalty shot to make it 5-2 with less than a minute to go in the second. Ovie was originally sent in on a breakaway but was hauled down by Colin White from behind.
Instead of giving White a two-minute penalty, the ref called for a penalty shot. And there was much rejoicing at the Phone Booth.
Ovie corralled the puck at center and skated down left side, cut across the crease and fired a shot past Brodeur's glove for the goal.
The four-goal outburst made up for a shaky start to the first period.
A giveaway by Marcus Johansson led to the Devils' first goal less than two minutes into the game.
Johansson tracked down the puck deep in his own and and, when pressured, tried to throw a backhand pass through the middle. Rookie mistake. His pass ended up on the stick of Patrick Elias, who made the rookie pay.
Elias quickly dished a backhand pass to Jamie Langenbrunner to the left of Michal Neuvirth, who threw it on net and the rebound went straight to Jason Arnott, who tapped home the rebound.
"Marcus made a mistake, and I just told him to get back out there," Boudreau said. "He's going to make mistakes as a young guy."
The Devils' lead didn't last long, however, as the Caps tied it at 1 less than a minute later.
The Devils, looking for a line change, dumped the puck out of their end to center ice. John Carlson corralled it, walked across the blue line, and used Mark Fraser as a screen to beat Martin Brodeur high glove side to make it 1-1.
The Devils grabbed the lead later in the first with a shorthanded tally by Henrik Tallinder, who lit up Neuvirth with a slap shot from between the circles.
Dainius Zubrus set up the play taking a pass from behind the Caps net in the slot. Zubrus used patience to set up Tallinder, getting a defenseman to sprawl out to block a shot he didn't take, only to drop it back for Tallinder.
The Devils took that 2-1 lead into the second period, but it was all Capitals from there.
Fleischmann scored two minutes into the second period to knot it at 2. Alex Semin picked up a loose puck behind the New Jersey net and dished a soft pass to Flash, who snapped it high over Brodeur stick-side.
Ovechkin's goal made it 3-2 and the route was on.
The Caps added a few more in the third off the sticks of Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr to round out the scoring.
Quick Hits: Before the game the Caps unfurled two banners -- one for winning the Presidents' Trophy and another for winning the Southeast Division for the third year in a row. ... The attendance was announced as 18,398. ... The Kovalchuk-Green bout was followed up by two more: Hendricks-Pelley and Bradley-Clarkson. That all preceded the thuggery by Letourneau-Leblond.